South Sound forestlands are at highest risk of conversion in the state

In a statewide analysis of the risk of conversion of forestland to other uses between now and 2050, the forest lands of the South Sound have been identified as being at the highest risk of conversion in the state.   Luke Rogers from the University of Washington explained that the analysis identifies that there currently is a signficant economic incentive in some areas to convert land from forestry to mixed use or urban/suburban use.   He suggested that the state policy of reduced property taxes for enrolled forestry lands was successful in providing financial incentives to landowners to keep their land in forestry through the 1990’s.  However, Rogers asserted, new restrictions on forestry practices with new protective regulations have now counteracted that economic incentive and it is no longer effective.  

The biggest transition over the last few decades in forest land ownership has been the sale of industrial forest lands to small private forest land owners.  Rogers showed a map that identified which forestry lands in the South Sound were at the greates risk of conversion to non-forestry uses due to their economic value.  Many of these lands were in the middle area of the watersheds in the transition zone between the public forest lands in the upper watersheds and the more urbanized areas closer to Puget Sound.

A survey of private forest landowners revealed that 93 percent of them would be willing to keep their land in forest production for 10 years if they were given a payment of $200 per acre and 53 percent of them would be willing to sign a 50 year forestry easement for $200 per acre.

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