How can changing a few words on the deed for a couple of small parcels of remote forestland provide welcomed relief to a struggling rural county? Thanks to a legislatively funded program, an additional $327,000 will be available for public services in Skamania County. The land in question is two parcels of forestland — 42.5 acres in all — that DNR manages for revenue to support public services in Skamania County. However, with that state-owned parcel encumbered by federal endangered species restrictions, it was unlikely that timber or other forest products would ever be harvested there.
Coming to save the day was the State Forest Trust Replacement Program, created by the state legislature a few years ago to aid small, economically stressed rural Washington counties, like Skamania, that depend heavily on timber revenue to support public services. Across western Washington, DNR manages several hundred thousand acres of land in the State Forest Trust. Most of the revenue from timber harvests on those lands goes to aid local services in the county where the land is located. However, when State Forest Trust lands are set aside from timber harvesting, the counties don’t get the resulting revenue. That’s not a huge problem in King County or other counties with strong, diverse local economies, but it can be a fiscal disaster in Skamania, Wahkiakum, and other thinly populated counties that rely on the local timber economy.
The State Forest Trust Replacement Program allows DNR to transfer those encumbered lands into conservation status with the market value of the standing timber going to the county. For Skamania County, an appropriation by the 2013 Legislature provided $500,000 (equivalent to 5 percent of the county’s annual budget), based on the parcel’s combined timber and land values. The legislation directs distribution of the parcel’s $436,250 timber value in the same manner as if a timber harvest had occurred: Skamania County will receive 75 percent ($327,188) of the proceeds and DNR will receive 25 percent ($109,062) for its land management costs. The $63,750 land value of the parcel will be used to purchase replacement land in the State Forest Trust for future revenue to Skamania County. The parcels are near the DNR-managed Stevenson Ridge Natural Resources Conservation Area and include vital nesting area for the northern spotted owl.
The parcel, north of Stevenson, is among the several thousand acres of forestland that DNR manages to support Skamania County services.
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