Working forests, working double-time

Many forested areas offer more than just economic value to communities. Photo: DNR.
Many forested areas offer more than just economic value to communities. Photo: DNR.

Most people know about the monetary benefits of harvesting trees from forest lands, but what people may not know are the other services forests provide. For instance:

• Forests are effective pollution filters, protecting the water we drink and the air we breathe
• Forests provide fertile and productive soil
• Forests protect against floods from large storms
• Forests reduce climate change impacts by sequestering carbon

Well, now there may be a way to better recognize the many ways that forests provide public health and safety benefits and, perhaps, compensate land managers who manage their land in a way that provides these benefits to communities.

View of Mount Loop Highway in Snohomish County. Photo: DNR.
View of Mount Loop Highway in Snohomish County. Photo: DNR.

In 2011, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received funding for a demonstration project to test whether public water utilities could provide payments to upstream private forest landowners who are committed to protecting watershed functions related to their mission.

DNR worked with ecosystem scientists and watershed resource managers in the Nisqually and Snohomish watersheds to explore payment systems for ecosystem services.

DNR just submitted a report to the Department of Ecology on their findings. In addition to this report, the demonstration turned from a project into a long-term solution in the following instances:

 • Partners in a demonstration project in the Nisqually watershed are discussing forested properties that could help protect the City of Olympia’s new drinking water source, the McAllister Wellfield.

• The demonstration project in Snohomish County is contributing to the Snohomish Basin Protection Plan.

Special thanks to all involved in this important study which may help preserve both forest land cover and economic vitality in Washington State.

For more information on this project, please visit DNR’s Forest Watershed Services Transactions Page.

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