Designated Forest Land

RCW 84.33.130

Senate Bill 6180, passed during the 2014 Legislative session. It reduced the minimum acreage requirement for the Designated Forest Land property tax classification from 20 acres to 5 acres or more of commercial timber.

This program is intended for all land in any contiguous ownership which has 5.0 acres or more of commercial timber on it, which is primarily devoted to and used for growing and harvesting timber.
The initial application fee is $200.

A separate check for the $303.50 recording fee is required as well. This will pay for the recording of the property tax classification with the County Auditor.

A complete forest management plan is essential when determining if a property is suitable for forest land designation.

While in most cases it is recommended that a management plan be prepared by a professional forester or other land use expert, it is also recognized that certain landowners have, through self-education, become very competent in undertaking the management of their forest land.  A management plan prepared by a landowner who has made the effort to become a competent steward of the land may be accepted if it meets the criteria of these guidelines.


The intent of the forest tax law is to encourage the retention of property in forest land use plus add quality acreage to the commercial forest land base.   The goal and objectives statement will be evaluated with the foregoing in mind when the application for designation of the property is under consideration.

In summary, the management plan to be submitted to the County Assessor's Office as part of an application for designation should consist of:

  • A goal and objectives statement.
  • An aerial photo or good quality copy of the aerial photo showing the approximate property lines, access roads, etc.
  • A photo overlay or map delineating forest types according to management needs.
  • Soil productivity information.
  • A summary of stand treatments planned.
  • An outline of how situations of environmental concern will be addressed.

The management plan filed with the County Assessor should be upgraded:

  • at the time of a harvest that reduces the stocking below state forest practice regulation levels;
  • when the property changes ownership; or
  • when conditions change that may hinder the management of the property for forest land.

In general, if the landowner has an "Approved Forest Stewardship Plan" as part of the Department of Natural Resources' Forest Stewardship Program, or a "Conservation Plan" developed by the Soil Conservation Service, it will meet the requirements for a management plan for designated forest land if the land is stocked with commercial species of trees.

It is possible that there is property now under designation status that does not have an adequate management plan on file.  If an inspection of the property casts doubt on whether it is being managed as forest land (for example, it is not adequately stocked with commercial species of trees or it is not being used primarily for the growing of trees) a step we will take before removal from the program will be to request a management plan from the landowner.

Periodically, a review will be conducted to verify the continued compliance with the provisions of the management plan.

Within 30 days after the land has been removed from designation as forest land, the County Assessor will notify the owner in writing, setting forth the reason for the removal.  The seller, transferor, or owner may appeal the removal to the County Board of Equalization.

Within 30 days of this Notice of Removal, the land owner may apply for re-classification as Farm and Agricultural land or Open Space Timber.  No compensating tax would be due until the application is denied or approved.

If the property is removed from the program, the compensating tax due is the difference between the amount of tax last levied on the land under designation and the amount of the new assessed valuation multiplied by the dollar rate that was last levied against the land, multiplied by the number of years (not to exceed 10) that the land was in designated forest land.

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