From the Pacific Ocean, across the crest of the Cascade Mountains and into the dry interior, over half of Washington State’s total land area is forested. Washington’s forest action plan highlights six major issues confronting our diverse forests: working forestlands and conversion; water quality, quantity and Puget Sound restoration; biodiversity and habitat conservation; forest health restoration; wildfire hazard reduction; and urban/community forests. The role of State & Private Forestry programs is critical to conserving, protecting and enhancing these values. Most landscapes are characterized by an intermingling of family forestland, industrial owners, and state and federal land managers, making “all-lands” strategies essential for success.
Washington ranks first among all western states in the percent of wildland-urban interface that is developed with homes. Average wildfire acres burned increased 30 percent between the current and previous decades, and climate change models predict a doubling of acres burned by the 2040s. Community Wildfire Protection Plans have identified 340,000 acres of non-federal land that are priorities for wildfire hazard reduction treatments.
Elevated insect and disease damage has been recorded on over 1 million acres of forestland for 7 of the last 10 years. Within 10 years, 2.8 million acres in eastern Washington are projected to suffer tree-kill on at least 20 percent of the stand basal area. Preventive management to restore resilient forest conditions is required on a large scale, including federal, state and private landowners that border one another in the same landscape.
Private working forests comprise 43 percent of the unreserved timberlands in Washington State. Western Washington lost 700,000 acres of timberland to conversion between 1978 and 2001, and projections for the rapidly urbanizing Puget Sound basin suggest that some watersheds could lose as much as 40 percent of their forestland by 2050. A sustainable forest land base requires relief from development pressures, an intact industry infrastructure, and conservation incentives and markets that value working forests’ ecosystem services.