Climate-Smart Forestry

Washington forests are key to a sustainable environment, a strong economy, and a just society. But climate change and expanding urban development threaten our forests. DNR is ensuring the future of the two million acres of forest we manage through climate-smart forestry. 
A graphic showing that Climate-Smart Forestry is comprised  of three things. First is mitigation described as capture and store carbon, reduce emissions. Second is adaptation described as improve forest and community resilience to climate change. Third is Supply wood products sustainably.
Climate-smart forestry (CSF) is a combination of strategies and practices to capture and store carbon in trees and wood products; create community and forest resilience against the impacts of climate change; and prevent conversion of our forests while sustainably supplying locally sourced wood products. Learn more about this work by signing up for our climate-smart forestry newsletter: 
As highlighted by the Climate Smart Wood Group, “CSF requires a commitment to continuous improvement because the climate is changing, and our knowledge base is growing. Consequently, there is no universal or static set of criteria that characterizes CSF.”
DNR is committed to on-going learning about climate-smart practices, and the agency’s operations reflect the shared aspects of current definitions of climate-smart forestry from leading academics, governments, and nonprofits. Highlighted below are some key examples of DNR’s work in climate-smart forestry: 
Capture and store carbon 
  • Trees draw carbon dioxide from the air as they grow and store carbon in wood fibers. This carbon can be stored in trees and soils, as well as long-lived wood products.
  • Climate-smart forestry practices ensure greater carbon sequestration and storage over time compared to conventional forest practices.  
DNR is conserving one million acres of forest across the state. 
Protect wildlife and water quality 
  • DNR's buffers for wildlife and water go above and beyond the minimum legal size requirements to ensure protection of plants, animals, and ensure water quality.
  • We preserve and restore habitat for dozens of imperiled, threatened, and endangered species as well as other critical wildlife like salmon.  
DNR maintains the largest ecological buffers in the state. 
Preserve old growth 
  • In keeping with our habitat conservation objectives, DNR identifies and protects old growth forest and individual large, structurally unique trees.  
Old growth preservation is important in DNR's habitat conservation work.
Advance equity in forest management activities
  • DNR provides up to 90% of rural county operating budgets, ensuring low-income communities maintain access to emergency services and school funding
  • DNR is implementing environmental justice assessments on all significant agency actions to ensure environmental benefits and burdens are equitably distributed. 
  • DNR is expanding our Wildfire Ready Neighbors program throughout western Washington to ensure residents, regardless of income or language, have the information and resources they need to protect their homes from wildfire and the negative heath impacts of smoke.  
  • Small forest landowners own nearly 3 million acres of forest statewide. DNR offers financial assistance to protect and promote the ecological and economic viability of their forestlands. 
In just 6 years, DNR has restored 600,000 acres of forest, mitigating some impacts of climate change. 
Collaborate with Tribal communities 
  • DNR works closely with Tribal partners to ensure they retain land access for hunting, fishing, cultural practices, and more.
  • We recognize the vital knowledge Washington's Indigenous peoples hold and collaborate on the management of our shared natural resources. 
  • DNR conducts Tribal consultations on all state policy proposals. 
DNR collaboratively manages natural resources with Tribes statewide.
Prevent forest conversion to development 
  • Washington lost nearly 400,000 acres of forest to drought, disease, development, and wildfire in less than 15 years. That pace will only accelerate if we don’t support our working forests and prevent conversion to parking lots and strip malls. 
  • We work with private landowners and the federal government to prevent conversion of thousands of acres of forest annually, protecting water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and recreation opportunities. 
Without the work of DNR and our partners, by 2040, Washington is on track to lose nearly 700,000 acres of forest to drought, disease, development, and wildfire. 
Supply wood products sustainably
  • Wood is our most renewable and sustainable building material. We can help address the growing housing crisis by building affordable housing with locally sourced wood instead of more carbon-intensive building materials, like concrete and steel.
  • Outside experts verify that DNR responsibly manages working forests above and beyond common protections for wildlife, water quality, and soil health. 
Wood-framed homes release at least 26% fewer emissions than other building materials. 
Fund schools, firefighters, and emergency responders 
  • DNR is required by law to generate revenue for local government and school construction statewide.
  • From UW to WSU, K-12 schools, and fire, library, and emergency medical service districts, DNR funds critical services across Washington. 
DNR generates about $140 million annually for schools and services statewide. 
Climate-smart forestry is critical to combating climate change and building the renewable economy of the future. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter above to get updates on DNR’s work in climate-smart forestry. 
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz discussing the benefits of climate-smart forestry at a 2023 conference hosted by Washington Conservation Action.  
Want to dive deeper into forest management and conservation?