Tonight I started a 10 session course called the Forest Stewardship Coached Planning Program, offered in King County through the Washington State University Extension. We meet every Tuesday evening for up to 3 hours, and there is also a Saturday field trip to local private forested properties for the purpose of applying some of the learning in actual hands-on scenarios.
Most property owners in the class are from the less populated eastern side of King County (the Seattle area is on the county’s west side), with 3 of us having properties outside of King County. For us outside the county, instructors will point us to state and local contacts for local programs and information when needed. Most of the concepts apply broadly across the state.
We introduced ourselves by pointing to our properties on detailed satellite image maps, and then worked in groups as an ice breaker to come up with “vision statements” for forest stewardship. Our main instructor introduced several King County foresters who will be assisting throughout the course. She also provided an overview of the contents of a Forest Stewardship Plan. A lady from King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks discussed tax incentive programs for county timber land and protected natural areas.
The primary objective of the course is to walk the participants through the entire process of creating a Forest Stewardship Plan. The plan can then be used for forest management and improvement, plus can significantly help in qualifying a property for property tax reduction programs and also in smoothing out certain permit and clearing/maintenance processes.
General contents of a Forest Stewardship Plan:
- Legal description
- Landowner objectives
- Forest health
- Timber and wood products
- Water quality
- Fish and wildlife habitat
- Threatened and endangered species and cultural resources
- Aesthetic and recreation
- Agroforestry and special forest products
- Management time table
- Appendices, including maps
In King County, there are 4 tax reduction programs for forest land owners, and 2 of them especially apply to the majority of smaller/private land owners. One reduces the taxable assessed value of the portion of the property used for long term timber production, and the other reduces the assessed value for areas that are set aside for natural preservation and restoration. Both programs can reduce the associated taxes by 90% or more. Areas that have buildings on them – or are used for other non-forest purposes – are not included, but the property can be artificially segregated into applicable and non-applicable sections. The tax advantages are then determined via a proportional calculation relating the applicable section to the overall value of the entire property. Island County will likely have some variations that I will need to investigate independently of this course.
Each week, the class gets homework assignments that usually consist of reading materials plus work that is centered around developing the content of a Forest Stewardship Plan specific to our property. Our personal plan will be focused on long term protection and enhancement of the forest habitat, and not on timber production. That is completely fine with the program and is actually related to the goals of most of the folks who participate in this course. A majority of the curriculum is centered around forest health, best practices, ecosystem enhancement, and achieving whatever forest-related goals the owner may have.
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