Two DNR Programs Helping to Conserve Forestland in the Chehalis Basin

Wynoochee River
A FREP easement along the Wynoochee River, a major tributary to the Chehalis River.

Recently, the Chehalis Basin Partnership was featured in an edition of the Small Forest Landowner News. One of the partnership’s stated goals is to keep forestry on the land because of its contributions to the basin’s environment and economy. Part of the Chehalis Basin Strategy is to improve river habitat and restore river banks. There are two programs administered by the Small Forest Landowner Office that are available to forest landowners, both large and small, that can help achieve these goals. Read on to learn about the Forestry Riparian Easement Program, and the Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program, and how they help not only forest landowners, but also the goals of the Chehalis Basin Partnership.

 

Forestry Riparian Easement Program: Designed for Small Landowners

The Forestry Riparian Easement Program (FREP) is available solely to small forest landowners who own at least 20 acres. The 1999 Legislature established FREP to help small forest landowners who may have seen the economic viability of their forestland reduced due increasing regulations. Small forest landowners—those who harvest less than two million board feet of timber per year—are eligible to apply to FREP. This program will reimburse landowners for 50 percent or more of the value of qualifying timber that is required to be left along fish bearing and non-fish bearing perennial streams, as well as certain wetlands. In return, the landowners grant the DNR a 50-year conservation easement on the trees in the riparian area. This program is on a first come, first served basis, and is funded based on the date of a complete application to the program.

In the Chehalis Basin, FREP has purchased 52 easements, with several more waiting for funding. These 52 easements protect of a total of 356 acres of riparian management zones (RMZ) around fish and non-fish perennial water, 196 acres of channel migration zones (CMZ), 43 acres of wetland management zones (WMZ), and 13 acres of unstable slopes adjacent to RMZs, CMZs or WMZs, for a total of over 600 acres of riparian forestland conserved. This also translates into protection for over 20 miles of streams and rivers in the basin.

 

Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program: Protecting Critical Habitat

A channel migration zone (CMZ) on the Satsop River
A channel migration zone (CMZ) on the Satsop River.

The Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program (RHOSP) is available to small and large forest landowners alike. This program differs in a few important ways from FREP. First, this program is specifically for protecting channel migration zones and critical habitat for State-listed threatened or endangered species. RMZs, WMZs and unstable slopes are not specifically eligible (although potentially may be included as critical habitat). A landowner is reimbursed for 100 percent of the qualifying timber value, and grants the State a perpetual easement on the trees in the area identified as eligible. Unlike FREP, this program is not first come-first served, but is ranked by a committee based on conservation benefits and landowner management options.

The easements in this program tend to be for larger dollar amounts, and the program receives less funding from the Legislature, which results in fewer easement purchases. There are two RHOSP easements within the Chehalis Basin, one within a CMZ on the Satsop River, and one within the CMZ of the Humptulips River. Together, these easements conserve an additional 57 acres of CMZ within the basin, and over two miles of additional stream length. One of these easements was granted to a large forest landowner, and one to small forest landowner.

If you own forestland, and think you might be interested in any one of these programs, please don’t hesitate to email me for more information. You may also contact your local landowner assistance or stewardship forester for more information as well.

By Matt Provencher, Conservation Easement Program Coordinator, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office, matthew.provencher@dnr.wa.gov