Forests Supporting Communities - Columbia Land Trust
Three counties in Southwest Washington—Wahkiakum, Pacific, and Skamania—are rich in natural resources, including and especially forests.

Three counties in Southwest WashingtonWahkiakum, Pacific, and Skamaniaare rich in natural resources, including and especially forests. These counties have strong relationships with their forests, which are cultural, economic, and ecological pillars. Columbia Land Trust has been working closely with these communities on holistic forest conservation strategies for more than 25 years. 

Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Natural Resources

A specific category of forestland in these counties is Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) trust lands – forests that are managed for revenue to fund vital community services. In addition to being a major economic driver, many of these trust land forests are also critical habitat for endangered northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. State and federal habitat protections for these endangered species have decreased the forestry revenue available to these counties, creating a troubling problem for the communities that rely on the forests.

Columbia Land Trust Forest Conservation Director Cherie Kearney helped initiate and is a member of the Encumbered Lands Steering Committee, a diverse and dedicated group that is advocating for the Washington State Legislature to fund a pilot project designed to creatively address this issue by ensuring timber revenue to the three counties while simultaneously protecting forest habitat for endangered species. 

This story map from the Washington Department of Natural Resources shares deeper background about this pilot program proposal and how it will work. 

Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Natural Resources

“This is a dedicated collaboration and we have arrived at an elegant solution to a vexing problem around state-owned and managed forestlands,” said Kearney. “The pilot program we’ve put forth demonstrates how diverse stakeholders can all embrace a proposal that addresses their diverse perspectives. We can share our forests so that they economically benefit communities, while ensuring ecological benefits.” 

Columbia Land Trust and all our partners on the Steering Committee are championing this pilot and encouraging the legislature to approve this bipartisan proposal in 2022.