Better Ground

Understanding Your Forest Real Estate

Designated Forest Land

As a way to encourage sound forestry practices and conserve healthy, working forests in Washington State, many counties offer landowners the option to have their land designated as forests. This designation often results in lower assessed value and lower property taxes. 

History of the Designated Forest Land Program

The Designated Forest Land program, RCW 84.33, was established in 1970 by the Washington State Legislature under the Open Space Taxation Act. This Act states that it is in the best interest of Washington to maintain, preserve, conserve, and otherwise continue open space lands, and allows eligible property owners to have their open space, farm and agricultural, and timber lands valued at their current use rather than at their “highest and best use.”

Is My Forest Land Eligible?

Your county’s assessor office, which is managed by the Washington Department of Revenue, can answer questions about whether your property is eligible for the Designated Forest Land program. While not the only criteria, you’ll need to ensure that you have at least five acres of land that can be dedicated primarily to the growth and production of timber. Get started here.

Timber Management Plans

A Timber Management Plan is required by most counties when applying for Designated Forest Land status. This plan provides you with valuable information about your forest and outlines your goals and management decisions. A forester or professional with adequate knowledge of timber management practices should write it with you. To learn more, click here.

Work with Local Forestry Professionals

Forestry professionals such as foresters, loggers, reforestation specialists, and more can be located by county with the Washington State Consulting Forester and Silvicultural Contractor Directory. The Washington Small-Scale Sawmill Directory is a compilation of professional sawyers who provide milling services to private forest landowners. Both resources are provided by WSU Extension Forestry.

Forestry Resources for Landowners

The Washington State University Extension Forestry program offers a wide variety of research-based forest stewardship classes, publications, videos, and other resources at You can also schedule a free site visit with your local conservation district or the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Small Landowner Field Office. To learn about financial assistance opportunities, contact your local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office. 

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