Wahkiakum, Pacific, and Skamania counties rely on forestry revenue from trust lands managed by DNR to sustain public services and to provide benefits back to their communities. These small counties have experienced a disproportionate economic impact for obligations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
These counties now rely indefinitely on legislative capital funding to pay for essential community services that were once funded by timber revenue.
Many forest lands that once generated funding for the counties are now “encumbered” by restrictions to harvest due to ESA obligations, and are no longer able to produce revenue. Since 2011, these counties have relied on legislative capital funding through the State Forest Land Replacement program to pay for essential community services that were once paid for with timber revenue. Currently, these small county governments would be unable to sustain public services without ongoing biennial legislative appropriations.
During the 2017-19 biennium, the Legislature directed DNR to work with Wahkiakum, Pacific, and Skamania counties, as well as stakeholders, to assess options and develop a long-term solution for these counties.
Per the Legislature’s direction, DNR convened the Encumbered Lands Steering Committee, which has met regularly since August 2017. The Steering Committee worked together to assess potential solutions and ultimately developed the Encumbered Lands Pilot Project. This proposal would fund the purchase of replacement forestland in the counties and/or would use a trust land exchange and reinvestment strategy to remedy the loss of revenue-generating capacity due to encumbered timber lands. It fulfills the state’s responsibilities to trust beneficiaries while alleviating disproportionate economic impacts to rural, resource-dependent communities. The pilot project is a critical step toward a long-term solution.
Explore Southwest Washington and learn more about the long-term impacts to these beneficiaries in this interactive StoryMap.