2022 State of our Forests and Public Lands

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Environmental Justice Tribal Relations

Statewide Forestry Issues

Prescribed Fire Community Resilience to Wildfire

20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan

Carbon Sequestration & Storage in Forests Across Washington Issues on State Trust Forestlands

Supreme Court Decision on Trust Mandate: DNR Discretion to Manage State Forests for Multiple Benefits

Managing for Carbon & Climate on State Lands

Carbon Offset Project on State Lands

Older Forests & Critical Habitats on State Lands

Public Participation at the Board of Natural Resources Trust Land Transfer

Olympic Experimental State Forest Issues on Private Forestlands

Adaptive Management Program Improvement

Water Typing Rulemaking

Protecting Stream Temperature in Headwater Streams and Clean Water Act Assurances

Compliance Monitoring

Expansion of Small Forest Landowner Technical Support

Issues on Aquatic Lands

Derelict Vessel Removal Program and Marine Debris Removal

Kelp and Eelgrass Recovery and Protection

Implementing Orca Recovery Task Force Recommendations

Clean Energy Project Review & Siting

Special Legislative Thanks

Other Notable Work

Topics We’re Tracking


Washington Environmental Council (WEC) and Washington Conservation Voters (WCV) are nonprofit, statewide advocacy organizations that drive positive change to solve Washington’s most critical environmental challenges. We work with activists, partners, state agencies, and elected officials to develop, advocate, and defend policies that ensure environmental progress and justice by centering and amplifying the voices of the most impacted communities. We advocate for sustainable management of our state’s lands and strive to hold elected officials and industrial landowners accountable.

Why does this report center our state’s forests?

Forests are irreplaceable ecological, sociocultural, and economic assets to Washington’s communities. They clean our air, filter sediment and pollutants from our water, absorb and store carbon dioxide, prevent flooding and landslides, and are places of cultural importance. They provide us with food, thousands of jobs, millions of dollars of economic activity, wildlife habitat, wood products, and recreation opportunities. Without healthy forests, there are no healthy streams or aquatic lands— which are critical for fulfillment of the rights of tribal nations. In an era of increasing uncharacteristic wildfire, improving and maintaining forest health are our best tools to mitigate risk. Without healthy forests, we cease to be the Evergreen State. Washington’s forests are not only core to our own identity and wellbeing— they are unique on a global scale and provide benefits beyond Washington.

Since 2015, WEC and WCV have published an annual State of our Forests and Public Lands report highlighting the progress of the Commissioner of Public Lands (CPL) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It is our responsibility to keep the public informed on how well elected officials are protecting the environment and addressing the climate crisis through management of public resources. The CPL is the only elected statewide position that works almost exclusively with our natural resources, making it one of the most important positions for Washington’s environment. We initiated this report because many of our organizations’ areas of work align closely with the mandate of DNR and of the CPL.

Commissioner Hilary Franz is Washington State’s 14th Commissioner of Public Lands and was elected to a second term in 2020. The commissioner leads DNR, which is responsible for managing, regulating, and protecting Washington’s approximately 13 million acres of state and private forests, 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands (tidelands, shorelands and harbors), and 1 million acres of state grazing lands. The CPL also supervises our state’s wildfire protection and chairs the Washington State Board of Natural Resources (BNR) and the Forest Practices Board (FPB). The BNR sets policies to guide how DNR manages our state-owned forests, aquatic lands, and rangelands. The FPB adopts rules for private and state forests that DNR implements and enforces. We engage with many DNR staff who lead this vital work. We greatly appreciate their dedication and expertise, and value our positive working relationships.

Commissioner Franz has made important progress during her time in office. The commissioner secured a $500 million commitment from the state legislature to prevent and fight wildfires and to build community resilience. Franz developed a 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan to restore forest resilience to wildfire. She has made progress in aquatics, including on derelict vessels and aquatic leasing, and made strides in clean energy on state lands.


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While we commend these accomplishments, we are concerned by the pace of progress on core elements of DNR’s mission: the stewardship of 2.1 million acres of state forestland and the regulation of private forest landowners on more than 9 million additional acres of land. This report focuses on these forest stewardship priorities. We recognize these can be challenging arenas to advance a progressive environmental agenda. A broad range of stakeholders vie for different policy positions on Washington’s public and private forests: the timber industry, county governments, school boards, recreationists, conservation organizations, and public citizens. Importantly, tribes are central voices in forest policy with a unique legal status in that they possess rights of tribal nations. Nonetheless, this is the arena in which we need the CPL to stand up to special interests and advocate for all of Washington.

The 2022 State of our Forests and Public Lands report evaluates the past year of Commissioner Franz’s progress. The report covers WEC and WCV’s priorities, on which we center our work. We assert that these issues are core to DNR’s mission and to the sustainable management of our state’s forestlands, and should be priorities for any CPL. However, our priorities may not always align with the CPL’s priorities. The report is not a comprehensive evaluation of all areas in which the CPL engages. As such, we encourage the agency’s attention to the assessment and recommendations for individual

topics, rather than interpreting the report as an exhaustive evaluation of the entirety of the agency’s operations. Towards the goal of providing thorough and timely coverage of DNR’s work, this year’s report includes new topics: additional aspects of wildfire response and aquatics, technical support for small forest landowners, and DNR’s carbon offset project on state lands. New sections on environmental justice and tribal relations are intended to center the importance of these two topics in natural resource management and in DNR’s work.

We write this year’s report with a sense of both optimism and urgency. As we face an extinction crisis and the ever-more harmful impacts of climate change, it is undeniable that we must evolve natural resource management beyond the status quo. Thankfully, the public and decision-makers have clearly signaled they, too, perceive a necessity for change. The legal framework that guides management of state lands and ties forestlands to the funding of K-12 schools— established upon Washington’s statehood 132 years ago—is overdue for an update. This July’s State Supreme Court decision in Conservation Northwest et al v. Hilary Franz et al held that public lands can be managed for the benefit of all people, not simply to maximize revenue for the institutional beneficiaries identified at statehood. With this decision, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how DNR management of state lands can enhance public benefit. We need incentives to support a transition to ecological forest management, and implementation of Washington’s Climate Commitment Act will bring new sources of funding to forest landowners in the coming years. We are on the brink of advancing new, science-based forest practice rules to protect forests and fish. There is a growing movement to understand the origins and carbon impacts of wood building products and a broad acknowledgment of how environmental inequities disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities. This is a moment for bold leadership and collaboration. This is an opportunity for DNR to be a positive force for change.


The report applies a Success, Work in Progress, or Needs Improvement grade on progress over the past year towards ensuring Washington forests, aquatic lands, and other vital resources are healthy and thriving.

We choose topics based on WEC/WCV’s assessment of their importance and timeliness, our organizational priorities, relevance to DNR’s core mandate, and DNR’s involvement. We strive to maintain continuity of core topics year-on-year, as well as to incorporate new, emerging topics.

Our assessment of each topic is based on whether DNR has achieved meaningful progress and accomplishments and/or whether DNR is on track to achieve milestones that we hope to see. Each evaluation section includes an introduction providing context on the topic, bullet points describing progress during the past year, and identification of opportunities WEC/WCV sees moving forward.

Assessment of Progress:


Significant accomplishments or milestones achieved. If the current trajectory continues, DNR will meet or exceed all milestones WEC/WCV hopes to see.


Notable progress or interim milestones achieved, which may serve as stepping stones for subsequent progress. If the current trajectory continues, DNR will likely achieve some or all milestones WEC/WCV hopes to see.

needs improvement

Limited progress, or DNR has not demonstrated strong commitment and active engagement. Progress is not significant or comprehensive across important elements of the topic. If the current trajectory continues, DNR will not achieve milestones WEC/WCV hopes to see.

This is a moment for bold leadership and collaboration. This is an opportunity for DNR to be a positive force for change.
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Environmental Justice

The importance of approaching DNR’s work through a racial justice lens cannot be overstated. By hiring the agency’s first Director of Equity and Environmental Justice, DNR has taken an important initial step toward recognizing and responding to the numerous ways that environmental justice and natural resource management intersect. We are pleased to see DNR begin to address environmental justice. We are heartened by DNR’s recognition that shifting agency culture and fully integrating environmental justice into the agency’s operations will require significant and sustained work in the long-term.

Under the leadership of the new director, important groundwork was laid in 2022 to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the status of environmental justice in DNR’s work, to identify challenges and priorities for funding, and to begin to develop assessment tools and strategic plan updates related to environmental justice. Capacity to date has been focused to a large degree on advancing agency requirements under the HEAL Act. This includes developing an internal agency education plan and an external community engagement plan. DNR plans to pursue additional resources and staff in the near term, which will bring much-needed capacity to expand racial equity work. The focus of additional staff capacity will include promoting greater representation and diversity in DNR’s boards and advisory bodies, completing assessments for compliance with the HEAL Act and Climate Commitment Act, and facilitating external engagement.

As the emerging Office of Equity and Environmental Justice expands, it is imperative that DNR shifts to an environmental justice lens to shape and guide the agency’s natural resource management actions. We see an opportunity and need for DNR to evolve measurement and evaluation to center human impacts and to meaningfully evaluate impacts on overburdened and diverse communities. For example, metrics for evaluating wildfire work should expand beyond acres treated or home assessments completed. Metrics should also encompass resources, capacity, and programming focused on overburdened communities and communities of color. We also hope to see each DNR division articulate how environmental justice intersects with their work, and how division operations and spending reflect and promote racial equity. We look forward to hearing from new voices brought into advisory and decision-making boards as well as greater diversity and representation in DNR’s own workforce.

In forestry, we see opportunities to incorporate environmental justice and community impacts into DNR’s work on wildfire response and resilience, workforce development, climate resilience, state lands management, support for small forest landowners, urban and community forestry, and recreation.

Forests and everything within them are cultural and critically important resources. DNR’s core mandate to manage Washington’s lands and waters, including forest and aquatic lands, has significant implications for fulfillment of the rights of tribal nations and tribal sovereignty. Tribal nations (treaty and non-treaty) are natural resource comanagers with the State of Washington, and multiple nontreaty tribal nations steward large forests in the state. All tribal nations have sovereign and inherent rights and should be meaningfully consulted (preferably under FPIC principles) and included in the stewardship of cultural resources. Close collaboration with tribal nations is critical in decisions impacting fisheries and forests— including, though not limited to, the topics covered in this report.

Recent DNR efforts to engage with tribal nations, both within Washington State and with rights in Washington State, include bringing back annual Tribal Summits. The 2021 summit topics included DNR’s Government-to-Government policy, shared stewardship and preserving access to cultural resources, clean energy, advancing climate resilience and salmon recovery. DNR’s Director of Tribal Relations worked with tribal nations on salmon recovery in the Snohomish Basin, with a Watershed Resilience Action Plan and FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Grant. Development of a clean energy mapping tool continues and would help DNR ensure culturally significant areas are not impacted during the siting of new energy projects.

DNR created the Tribal Liaison position in 1991 and elevated the title to Director of Tribal Relations in 2012. It would be appropriate for the Director of Tribal Relations to report directly to the CPL in recognition of the tribal sovereignty and priorities of Washington State tribal nations. Tribal Relations should have positions in both the operations and executive teams of DNR. The work ahead, which we support and encourage, includes: Legislator & Tribal Relations Tours– to begin in the Olympic region and continue throughout the state in years ahead; improving access to natural resources workforce for tribal nations, women, communities of color; and increasing visibility of DNR’s work with tribal nations to improve transparency, access, and accountability. To realistically maintain this growing body of work, we hope to see the expansion of the DNR Tribal Relations Team implemented to include a Deputy Director, Cultural Resources Specialist, and six Regional Tribal Liaisons.

“Tribal sovereignty pre-dates the existence of the United States of America and the United States recognizes tribal sovereignty in treaties, acts of Congress, Executive Orders, and court case law.”
– Native American Rights Fund TRIBAL RELATIONS
We believe tribal sovereignty and environmental justice are linked and one cannot be achieved without the other.
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StatewideForestry Issues

This section addresses topics that are relevant to all forests statewide, across different land ownership types (e.g. private, state, federal, tribal)

“The essence of tribal sovereignty is the ability to govern and to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of tribal citizens within tribal territory…tribal governments are responsible for a broad range of governmental activities on tribal lands, including… environmental protection, natural resource management, and the development and maintenance of basic infrastructure...”
– National Congress of American Indians


• To meet the scale of wildfire risk mitigation needed, it is critical that DNR significantly scale up prescribed burning. Expanded training and certification can support expansion of prescribed burns on DNRmanaged state trust lands, through DNR’s landowner assistance program, and through increased collaboration with tribal nations and support for traditional cultural burning practices.

Prescribed fire is an essential tool to improve the health of Washington’s forests. Our forests evolved with periodic wildfires, ignited both by natural causes such as lightning and by human causes— often intentionally. Since time immemorial, indigenous peoples have used fire for a range of purposes including hunting and creating favorable conditions for plant species used for food and fiber.

The fire suppression policies of the past 150 years have significantly altered forest composition and structure. Coupled with the hotter and drier conditions arising from climate change, this legacy of suppression has led to increased fire severity. The science is clear that controlled or prescribed fire is a critical component of forest management that supports ecosystem health. Prescribed fire should be used in conjunction with other management practices such as ecologically-based thinning, according to the unique conditions of each landscape.

public perception of fire was also necessary to gain the public buy-in to return good fire to the landscape.

• Burns Conducted & Planned on State Lands: DNR completed two burns in the Spring of 2022, both through the Northeast regional office: a 260acre burn near Loomis in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and a 108-acre burn near Springdale. Eight additional burns are currently scheduled for the fall and spring through DNR’s Northeast and Southeast regions.

• Training and Staffing for Burning Statewide: With significant support from the legislature, DNR has increased training and staffing capacity for prescribed fire. DNR is a supporter and funder of the Washington Prescribed Fire Council’s Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX), and many DNR staff participate in TREX trainings. The first

For the first time in 16 years, DNR conducted two prescribed burns on state trust lands in the spring of 2022. Since 2006, DNR was unable to conduct prescribed burns due to a lack of trained staff, air quality concerns, and insufficient funding. A shift in successPrescribed Fire Evaluation

official DNR Certified Burn Manager class was conducted in May. This program was established through HB 2733. The certification program provides a credential for individuals with substantial experience conducting prescribed burns and creates a pathway for private landowners to conduct burns. DNR hired a Certified Burn Program Manager in February 2022 to lead this program.

• Smoke Management Plan: With fire comes smoke, and DNR was generally supportive of efforts to approve the new statewide Smoke Management Plan (SMP), which is required by the EPA for air quality. The SMP was finally approved after six years of effort. DNR staff are already engaging with partners to ensure a smoother, more expedient process for the next SMP update.

• Public Communication: DNR launched the Forest Health Trackeri and maintained resources for public outreach including burn alert emails, a prescribed fire program Twitter account, and brochures and postcards in both English and Spanish.

• DNR is developing a prescribed fire strategic plan, and workgroup meetings will begin this winter. Strategic plan development will be stronger with a broad range of community voices and with workgroup meetings or listening sessions in accessible languages, times, and formats. There is an opportunity for the plan to include strategies to address two challenges to prescribed burning across the state: 1) The prohibitive costs associated with liability insurance coverage, and 2) The need for additional DNR capacity related to liability and prescribed fire planning.

• Creation of greater cohesion across DNR regions in their approach to prescribed fire. This could be accomplished through a more centralized, dedicated prescribed fire workforce.

• Individuals who are trained and certified to conduct prescribed burns must often shift to suppression activities during wildfire season. Incentives for wildfire suppression, such as hazard pay, make prescribed fire work comparatively less attractive. Supporting a dedicated prescribed fire workforce through training, certification, and funding can help address this challenge.


Community Resilience to Wildfire

needs improvement

end date. This creates challenges for program implementation. Some smaller, under-resourced fire districts and community-based organizations are unable to operate with such delays in reimbursement-based funding.

• Partner organizations have experienced challenges in contracting with DNR on community wildfire resilience efforts. Many contracts are managed by division staff with policy, technical assistance, and scientific backgrounds, rather than by regional offices with on-the-ground project management expertise and with established community relationships.

• Contracts with DNR emphasize the implementation of deliverables like the number of home assessments rather than capacity building, planning, and trust building. Contracts are not structured to support meaningful metrics or to demonstrate impact.

Wildfire Ready Neighbors

Community resilience is one of three goals established by the 2021 wildfire funding bill, HB 1168. The bill requires a minimum of 15% of the funds to be appropriated to the Wildfire Response, Forest Restoration, and Community Resilience Account to be used to improve community wildfire resilience.

These funds were awarded to community-based organizations to support community resilience efforts, including support for Latinx-led organizations, community outreach and education, wildfire mitigation programs, community wildfire protection planning, and preparedness training. In addition, Firewise USA® sites could apply for micro-grants to complete fuel reduction activities or host annual meetings.

DNR also used this funding to pilot the Wildfire Ready Neighbors (WRN) program in 2021. WRN helps residents identify and reduce wildfire risk on their property. WRN participants receive a free wildfire risk assessment and a forest health consultation. The WRN budget also funds advertising to increase awareness of the program.


Wildfire resilience work is new for DNR. It marks a positive step toward supporting Washington’s communities as they learn to live with the reality of wildfire. However, in the years ahead, DNR’s wildfire resilience work will need to significantly evolve if it is to respond meaningfully to community priorities and needs.

Support for Community Resilience

• DNR has initiated investments in small community resilience projects and is starting to build partnerships with community-based organizations serving overburdened populations. When DNR is responsive to the unique priorities and needs identified by communities, this support has proven valuable. In these cases, partnerships between the agency and organizations working on community resilience have strengthened.

• Funding has not been effectively or efficiently distributed to local organizations implementing this community resilience work. Funds are expected to be spent by the end of the fiscal year. However, in some instances, grant agreements were not signed and funds were not disbursed until on, or shortly before, the fiscal year

• WRN assessments provided through the state are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. This creates a risk of exposing private information that could be used by insurance companies to increase premium costs or to deny claims. It is not clear if this is communicated to residents who participate in the program.


• To date, more than 3,600 people in six highrisk counties have signed up for free WRN home assessments. Program outreach is in both English and Spanish and includes community events, direct mail, and paid advertising. WRN is also expanding to the west side of the state.

• For some homeowners, home assessments facilitated access to DNR’s Financial Assistance for Wildfire Resilience and Forest Health costshare program to implement recommendations for managing vegetation. For other assessment recommendations, such as home hardening, there are no dedicated resources to enable homeowners to take action.

• In some cases, the timing of DNR funding required fire districts and organizations to shift away from regular season forest fuel reduction work to instead prioritize home assessments. Home assessments are best scheduled in the off season, when weather conditions can hamper fuel reduction work.

• The WRN program was not substantively updated between 2021 and 2022 in response to feedback from partners on areas that need improvement. Improvement opportunities exist for both current home assessments and additional community resilience needs. For example, WRN creates duplicate assessments in cases where local entities have already utilized national or locally developed assessment tools for planning, project development, and strategic wildfire response.

• Collaborative work between DNR and partners with years of experience in community wildfire resilience can provide a deeper understanding of what community resilience means to local communities. Community organizations can help DNR achieve transformation on the ground and tell a compelling story of change— if feedback drawn from their experience is incorporated into the design of WRN. For example, an onboarding and orientation process could be created for participating organizations to clarify expectations, roles, and responsibilities. DNR could also improve contracting processes, protection of personal data, and support for wildfire risk reduction activities beyond vegetation management.

• DNR can foster more effective partnerships by including planning and capacity building work in contracts that is responsive to unique local needs. Contracts should establish deliverables and measure impact in ways that are meaningful, feasible, and support the existing work of community-based organizations. Sustained investment in community-based organizations is needed to ensure community resilience needs are met through training, funding, workforce development, and so on.

• DNR should prioritize funding to communitybased organizations that represent the overburdened communities and vulnerable populations disproportionately harmed by wildfire, including outdoor workers, unhoused communities, and renters. DNR must center equity in community resilience efforts through funding, communications, and resource allocation.

• Increased DNR staff capacity provides a significant opportunity to improve outcomes as programs and funding expand and improve.

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20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan

(74% of acres) are regeneration harvests, 1% (5% of acres) are thinning, and 15% (21% of acres) are “other.” Regeneration harvests are even-aged harvests—generally clearcuts with a limited number of trees retained. Forest health objectives are rarely best achieved by a regeneration harvest, but rather through selective, uneven aged thinning to reduce biomass while retaining older, fire-resistant trees. The prevalence of regeneration harvests raises questions about what DNR considers a forest health treatment.WORK IN PROGRESS

The 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan has now reached the 5-year mark. The Plan creates a strategy and goals for forest health treatments across private, tribal, state, and federal land ownerships in Central and Eastern Washington. It establishes priority watersheds determined through analysis of the health of forests and defined forest values including wildlife, drinking water, aquatic system health, and timber volume. DNR plays a dual role in leading implementation of the plan across all landownership types, as well as in carrying out forest health treatments on state trust lands.

The Plan represents an important transition away from historical management practices like fire suppression and toward management practices that support ecological restoration and climate change adaptation. Non-commercial thinning and burning are critical to achieving forest health objectives. However, they do not generate sufficient revenue to cover costs. For this reason, financial incentives and support from DNR are important. Both the number of acres and the quality of treatments are critical in achieving and measuring forest health outcomes.


Statewide Implementation

• In October 2021, DNR launched the Forest Health Treatment Tracker. This tool provides transparency through visual, mapped representation of planned, cancelled, implementation-stage, and completed activities. The tracker enables users to filter information by project type, project theme, lead implementer, program, and location.

• Acres treated: Goal 1 of the Plan is “Conduct 1.25 million acres of scientifically sound, landscape-scale, cross-boundary management and restoration treatments in priority watersheds to increase forest and watershed resilience by 2037.”

° As of May 2022, DNR and partners reported completion of 384,603 treatment acres on 253,764 footprint acres. 1 Based on this data, DNR reports Goal 1 as 31% complete. This acreage is inclusive of all treatments in Eastern Washington, given that DNR plans to designate the entirety of Eastern Washington as “priority areas” by the plan’s conclusion in 2037. The agency designates additional priority areas each biennium.

° Considering the currently designated priority areas, DNR and partners reported completion of 158,056 treatment acres on 100,290 footprint acres as of May 2022. This acreage represents 18% of the 1.25 million acre goal. Treatments in current priority areas represent 41% of all treatments to date.

• Quality of treatments: DNR receives information about forest health treatments from landowners across the state and adds the acres to statewide treatment totals. The agency does not evaluate whether actions reported qualify as a forest health treatment vs. harvest without forest health as a central objective. While it would be challenging for DNR to serve as arbiter for all forest health treatments, a system of self-reporting without quality control leads to categorization of a wide range of projects as forest health treatments, potentially inappropriately.

• HB 1168 highlights categorical exclusions (CEs) as a tool to increase the pace and scale of forest health treatments. To date, DNR has not provided requested clarification on the circumstances in which they intend to use CEs. CEs are a

1 A footprint acre represents the actual acre of land, whereas a treatment acre reflects the application of treatment. A single footprint acre may receive multiple treatments, each of which is counted as a treatment acre.

class of actions that bypass National Environmental Policy Act requirements for environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement.

• DNR funding has helped increase capacity of forest health collaboratives. In some cases, direct DNR engagement in collaboratives has escalated tensions. DNR staff have encouraged scaling up acres treated in the short-term, at times at the expense of relationships and forest health outcomes.

• In March 2022, the DNR Forest Health Science Team released a report called The Work of Wildfire.ii This report analyzed the impact of 2021 wildfires on forest landscape resilience and wildfire risk reduction. The report demonstrated that, in addition to well-known negative impacts, wildfire also can have significant positive impacts for landscape health in Washington’s forests. This supports a greater use of prescribed fire in wildfire management and a shift away from suppression when natural fire can support forest health objectives.

Implementation on DNR Managed State Lands

• On state trust lands, the majority of treatment acres—including both priority and nonpriority areas—are commercial (34%) and non-commercial (57%) thinning projects as opposed to prescribed burns (9%). The Forest Health Trackeri shows only one, 95-acre noncommercial treatment on state trust lands.

• Among all treatment acres on state trust lands, only 21% of acres are non-commercial treatments in priority areas, and 3% are prescribed burns in priority areas. These are the subset of treatments with the greatest potential value-add and impact on forest health.

• Among commercial treatments on state lands, data available on the Forest Health Tracker indicates 84% of completed treatments


• Greater emphasis on forest health treatments in current priority areas. DNR conducted robust scientific analysis to identify priority areas with the greatest need of treatment. These priority areas were central to the Plan’s strategy. DNR can maximize impact by focusing efforts in priority areas and demonstrating substantial completion before adding new priority areas.

• More oversight to ensure acres submitted qualify as forest health treatments. DNR can implement a basic level of quality control by providing clear guidance to landowners on what qualifies as a forest health treatment, requiring consistent reporting on silvicultural prescriptions, and ground truthing a sample of treatments. Further investigation is warranted to understand the prevalence of regeneration harvests and rationale for reporting as forest health treatments.

• Monitoring to understand outcomes on the ground. Acres treated are a necessary but incomplete measure of impact. To ensure acres reported are reflective of good outcomes, DNR should implement effectiveness monitoring to understand forest condition and wildfire behavior in response to treatment.

• Expansion of prescribed fire and noncommercial thinning to enhance forest health, particularly on state lands. Expansion of this work can be supported with funds from HB 1168 and federal sources like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As the DNR prescribed fire program is built out, prescribed burning should comprise an increased share of total treatment acres.

• Clarifying planned use of categorical exclusion via a public memo would build confidence that forest health work is guided by appropriate environmental impact assessment and mitigation.

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Carbon Sequestration & Storage in Forests Across Washington

This section focuses on DNR’s central role in forest management statewide, consistent with the agency’s mission: “Manage, sustain, and protect the health and productivity of Washington’s lands and waters to meet the needs of present and future generations.”

As we seek to mitigate and adapt to climate change, Washington’s forests are among our most valuable assets. We need our forests to achieve our state’s target of carbon neutrality by 2050, which requires 5% of emissions to be achieved by biological sequestration or geological sequestration.iii DNR’s 2018-2021 strategic plan includes the goal of “smart carbon reduction efforts that reduce emissions and strengthen local economies.”

A recent study of natural climate solutions (NCS) found that forest management with extended harvest rotations has the highest climate mitigation potential in Washington State,iv more than other measures such as avoided conversion, land management, and restoration. The study found that extended timber harvest rotations accounted for 64% of all potential NCS emissions reductions, while avoided conversion accounted for 13%.

In November 2019, DNR convened the Carbon Sequestration Advisory Group (CSAG) to guide the agency’s work on carbon sequestration on natural and working lands. The CSAG published a final report in November 2020. To fulfill the same budget proviso that convened the CSAG, DNR was directed to produce carbon inventories to understand carbon stocks and fluxes in Washington’s natural and working lands.v


• Last year’s State of our Forests and Public Lands Report urged DNR to take decisive action based on the CSAG and Forest Ecosystem Carbon Inventory. In the past year, DNR did not share plans or progress on the five recommendations in the CSAG report, summarized as follows:

1. Develop a template to communicate inventory results to policy makers.

2. Enhance existing inventory information by linking with incentives tools and resources to inform new targeted assistance or investments.

3. Conduct sensitivity analyses for inventories to improve understanding of the effects and outcomes of policies and to determine where investments will result in the greatest desired outcomes.

4. Improve technical inventory methods.

5. Explore possible carbon and other social environmental impacts associated with greater utilization of wood in construction.

• In the 2022 legislative session, DNR introduced the Keep Washington Evergreen (KWE) bill. KWE did not pass. It would have required creation of a strategy to avoid conversion of one million acres of forestland and to reforest one million acres statewide. Although reforestation and avoided conversion can help sustain the forested landscape, they are not the most effective strategies for carbon sequestration in Washington. KWE focused on the small portion of Washington’s forests managed for timber that are at risk of conversion, and did not address forest management practices. A focus on how forests are managed would have implications for all forests across the state and could have a significant impact on carbon sequestration. KWE was a missed opportunity to incentivize ecological forest management—the climate change solution in need of the state’s active support, rather than conventional, industrial forest management.

• The Climate Commitment Act (CCA) directed DNR to contract an entity to lead a Small Forestland Owner Work Group. The work group will identify carbon market opportunities for small forest landowners. DNR received funding in the 2022 legislative session and is in the process of finalizing the contract with the Washington Farm Forestry Association (WFFA). Due to the delay in this process—particularly in the allocation of funds by

the legislature—output of the group will be too late to inform the CCA rulemaking process concluding this year. It is important for this effort to expand to engage the full range of small forest landowners beyond WFFA’s membership, including small forest landowners who own smaller parcels and tribal nations, which have unique interests related to aggregation.

• As described in other sections, DNR did not explore a carbon policy on state forestlands managed by the agency, nor did it develop a plan to conserve carbon-rich older forests on state forestlands.


• DNR should advance CSAG’s recommended next steps to inform a statewide strategy for carbon sequestration on natural and working lands. Moving forward, natural and working lands must form a central component of the state’s emissions reduction strategy, with DNR participating alongside other government entities and tribal nations in the development of a statewide plan for enhancing forest carbon sequestration and storage.

• Development of a comprehensive approach and legislative strategy for DNR to support carbon sequestration and storage across Washington. Such a strategy should include improved forest management, protection of the state’s rare and unique forest ecosystems, urban forestry, avoided conversion, and restoration. DNR can lead by example by pursuing carbon sequestration and resilience on the state lands managed by the agency, including through extended rotations, protecting carbon-rich forests, and funding Trust Land Transfer.

• DNR can play an active role in guiding Washington’s cap & invest program toward positive impact on forests. Three avenues to do so are: 1) Inclusive engagement of the diversity of small forest landowners and tribal nations to inform an aggregation protocol in CCA rules, 2) Providing technical support for small forest landowners to take part in carbon offsets, and 3) Supporting prioritization of investments in forest carbon sequestration through the CCA’s Natural Climate Solutions account.

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Issues on State Trust Forestlands

Supreme Court Decision on Trust Mandate:

DNR Discretion to Manage State Forests for Multiple Benefits

In 2020, Conservation Northwest, WEC, Olympic Forest Coalition, and eight local individuals filed a lawsuit regarding state management of state lands. Washington State’s constitution states that “all the public lands granted to the state are held in trust for all the people.” Our lawsuit urged the courts to hold that this language authorizes and requires management of these lands in the long-term best interest of all Washingtonians, and that recent policy decisions by the commissioner, Board of Natural Resources (BNR), and DNR violated this constitutional requirement. At the same time, the timber industry, some counties, and some beneficiaries sued DNR for not logging enough. This opposing litigation set up the question of whether and how much logging DNR must conduct on state lands to meet its fiduciary and public policy objectives.

On July 21, 2022, the State Supreme Court ruled on Conservation NW et al v. Commissioner of Public Lands et al. While the unanimous Court’s decisiondismissed the specific legal challenges related to the Sustainable Harvest Calculation and Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy adopted in 2019, the Court delivered the clarity and broader discretion we sought: DNR now has the discretion to manage our public lands for the dual goals of revenue generation and non-monetary benefit.vi

As the Court explained, “[t]here appear to be myriad ways DNR could choose to generate revenue from the state and forest board lands or otherwise put them to use for the benefit of the enumerated beneficiaries” (page 23).

This landmark decision recognizes that the agency, the CPL, BNR, and the State of Washington have the power to manage public lands in ways that truly reflect and support our state’s evolving environmental, economic, and social needs.

We were pleased to see that Commissioner Franz’s initial reaction embraced the broader discretion the Court awarded to DNR. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the Commissioner stated, “[This] ruling affirms DNR’s position that it has discretion under the constitutional and legislative mandate to manage public lands on behalf of the communities we serve and ensure our public lands are providing the greatest environmental, social, and economic good… we must do everything we can to safeguard public lands and protect our forests.”




For years, DNR’s interpretation of its constitutional mandate has been anchored in a perceived requirement to maximize revenue from timber harvests. This goal of revenue maximization constrained the agency. It was a barrier to management that enhances the many non-monetary benefits of our public forests, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, wildfire risk reduction, biodiversity, cultural value, and ecosystem services like clean and abundant water.


This section addresses topics relevant to the 2.1 million acres of public forests that are managed by DNR on behalf of trust beneficiaries such as counties and school districts, and that generate revenue for those beneficiaries. The Washington State Trust Lands Habitat Conservation Plan guides management of these lands.

The door is wide open for DNR to manage our public lands in a new way, building a healthy and equitable future for generations to come. The decision gives the DNR and the commissioner an unprecedented amount of discretion, and the next year will be decisive in setting the tone. We look forward to working closely with the CPL, agency staff, and the BNR to make a reality of the shared goal of managing state lands for the “greatest environmental, social, and economic good.”

The agency must now update the 2006 Policy for Sustainable Forests (PSF)— the policy that guides DNR’s management actions. It is critical the PSF be updated to harmonize with the Supreme Court decision, and to reflect the breadth of DNR’s discretion in management of state forest lands. The upcoming Sustainable Harvest Calculation (SHC) must be re-designed as an exercise with multiple objectives, rather than the single objective of optimizing timber volume. While the PSF will establish the framework for DNR to pursue a mission of management for environmental, social, and economic value, the SHC will translate this mission into practice on the ground. These two elements are central to guiding the agency toward new ways of promoting forest health, carbon storage and sequestration, climate resilience, public safety, and ecological timber harvest.

“[t]here appear to be myriad ways DNR could choose to generate revenue from the state and forest board lands or otherwise put them to use for the benefit of the enumerated beneficiaries.”
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The Court confirmed three important guiding principles for management of our state lands:
is not required maximize revenue generation above all other objectives in management of public lands (page 25 of decision, “Conclusion”).
may elect to generate revenue from land via timber sales— but is not required to do so.
may balance revenue generation with other public benefits—including ecological and social benefits from conservation. 1 2 3

Managing for Carbon & Climate on State Lands

As the steward of 2.1 million acres of state forestlands, DNR has a responsibility to lead on forest carbon storage and sequestration in Washington. However, DNR’s Policy for Sustainable Forests (PSF) and the past Sustainable Harvest Calculations (SHC) do not take into account climate change nor carbon sequestration.

We envision a policy framework to guide climate change mitigation and adaptation on state forestlands using complementary strategies of conserving unique and high conservation value areas paired with climatesmart, ecological forestry on existing short rotation stands.

Since June 2019, WEC has engaged with DNR and the BNR on the need for a carbon and climate policy for state forestlands. We submitted a policy request to BNR in June 2019vii and received a response from DNR a year later stating, “The Board has and will continue to carefully consider the role of state lands in addressing this pressing issue as we work towards a comprehensive forest carbon policy.”

This section considers DNR’s management of state lands and is a continuation from past reports. It is evaluated separately from “Carbon Offset Project on State Lands” because it focuses on policy and management actions across the entire state lands base, rather than a discrete project on a limited number of acres.


• In 2021, we reinitiated dialogue with DNR about carbon sequestration on state lands. The goal of these conversations was to identify and address information gaps related to carbon sequestration and climate-smart forestry. We hoped this would support a scientifically informed BNR discussion about managing for carbon. Conversations with the agency stopped when we were unable to identify shared priorities and meetings were deprioritized.


• With clarity from State Supreme Court that there are “myriad ways DNR could choose to generate revenue from the state and forest board lands or otherwise put them to use for the benefit of the enumerated beneficiaries,”vi DNR can move forward decisively with a carbon strategy on state lands.

• Meaningful carbon sequestration and storage on state lands requires three interrelated components: 1) An updated policy framework establishing climate mitigation and adaptation as management objectives, 2) Harvest and volume planning which pursues carbon sequestration as a desired outcome, informed by analysis of carbon impacts and, 3) Standlevel management practices that support climate change mitigation and adaptation, e.g., extended rotations, structural complexity, and retention of older trees.

• In April, DNR announced a 10,000-acre carbon offset project on state lands. This project is evaluated in a separate section of the report. This project is a positive step, particularly given DNR’s past assertions that it was not possible to implement carbon offset projects on state lands. The project underscores the need for a comprehensive policy framework to guide and prioritize individual carbon sequestration efforts across state lands— which should occur at a broader scale and should include carbon offset projects as one tool among several.

• The Commissioner’s Order accompanying the carbon offset project announcement directed staff to consider carbon sequestration and storage opportunities and committed to annual reporting on DNR’s progress evaluating these opportunities.

• An organization’s policies are a statement of its values. The BNR and DNR’s failure to move with urgency to establish policies to manage our public resources for public good in the context of climate change is disappointing.

• Update the PSF and/or create a separate carbon policy describing DNR’s carbon sequestration and climate adaptation goals on state forestlands. DNR has indicated they are exploring a climate policy, which provides opportunity to engage experts in conservation, academia, tribal nations, local communities.

• DNR can draw from the positive example of Oregon— where last November, Oregon’s Board of Forestry approved a complementary Climate Change and Carbon Policy.viii This policy outlines climate-smart and equity-based strategies that modernize Oregon’s management of public forests to meet the urgency of the climate crisis and address the needs of the public.

• Incorporate carbon sequestration as a core component of the upcoming SHC calculations. Rather than optimizing the volume of timber harvested, the SHC should use multiple objectives to measure success. Carbon storage and sequestration climate resilience, and forest health should be core components of the SHC alongside timber volume and other outcomes. This should be reflected in the forthcoming Need, Purpose, and Objective statements and alternatives for the SHC calculations.

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DNR plans to publish a “Carbon Playbook” in the fall. It will outline opportunities to increase carbon sequestration and storage on DNR-managed lands and waters and other lands and waters. DNR shared an advance draft with WEC/WCV. The playbook outlines principles to guide DNR’s carbon project development, and carbon sequestration opportunities on state forested lands, state aquatic lands, agricultural lands, non-state tribal and private forested lands, urban forests, and in geologic carbon storage. In the forested landscape, potential projects include avoided conversion, improved forest management, and reforestation, as well as biochar (a carbon-storing substance produced through pyrolysis of biomass). Urban forestry opportunities include avoided conversion and addressing inequity in tree canopy cover. For state aquatic lands, the focus is on conservation and restoration of submerged vegetation and wetlands.

DNR’s Forthcoming Carbon Playbook

The playbook is an exciting signal of DNR’s intent to promote carbon sequestration on a broader scale. The document provides a comprehensive starting point for engaging stakeholders and tribal nations to further develop the agency’s efforts.

DNR can build on this analysis to create an actionable plan and clear framework for carbon sequestration work. This should include robust standards for projects, prioritization criteria, identified priority project types, policy change, and funding sources. To achieve the full carbon sequestration and storage potential on state managed lands, it will be critical to look beyond projects on discrete parcels of land. DNR should simultaneously pursue systematic changes to policy and management practices. Although the costs of some carbon sequestration efforts may not be fully compensated by carbon payments, pursuing such efforts is a worthy investment for our state in a world threatened by climate change.


Carbon Offset Project on State Lands

In April, Commissioner Franz announced a 10,000-acre carbon offset project— the first carbon offset project on state lands in Washington. The announcement was accompanied by a “Commissioner’s Order on Carbon Sequestration and Storage,”ix which directed DNR leadership and staff to consider carbon sequestration opportunities across DNR’s forest, agricultural, and aquatic lands, and to propose any necessary changes to legislative authority or to agency policy and procedures.

The project will encompass 10,000 acres across numerous parcels and counties, generating revenue through carbon credits rather than timber harvest. Phase 1 will protect 2,500 acres in Grays Harbor, King, Thurston, and Whatcom counties. DNR is in the process of selecting acres for “Phase 2,” guided by the High Conservation Value (HCV) approach, which considers species diversity, landscape-level ecosystems, ecosystems and habitats, ecosystem services, community needs, and cultural values.x

The 10,000 acres will be an improved forest management project. It changes management practices on existing forestland to sequester and store additional carbon beyond the baseline of planned harvest and management. In this case, DNR will defer harvest on ecologically important stands scheduled for harvest at specific future dates. While the project is still in the development stage, DNR estimates it will produce more than 900,000 carbon offset credits during the first 10 years, generating revenue for trust beneficiaries. DNR is partnering with project developer Finite Carbon. The BNR is actively discussing appropriate oversight and due diligence for this new type of revenue-generating activity on state trust lands.

We evaluate this project in two categories to provide a clear assessment on distinct aspects: 1) DNR taking exciting initiative to pursue management of trust lands for carbon, 2) Carbon offset project design and stakeholder engagement. One set of opportunities is offered for the carbon project as a whole.

Carbon Project development & stakeholder engagement improvement

• The process for selecting acres and gathering stakeholder input is not clear, although DNR indicates the agency has future plans for engagement and tribal consultation. For Phase 1, stakeholders were not engaged in selection of the 2,500 acres. For Phase 2, DNR has neither shared a methodology nor criteria for identifying and prioritizing land that falls within the six broad categories of HCVs. However, DNR staff have been open to transparent dialogue with stakeholders on an ad hoc basis.

• The carbon project has been described as the outcome of the commissioner’s commitment to address criticism about harvest of older, structurally complex forests. This 10,000-acre carbon project alone is not a sufficient response to the older forest issue. In the meantime, harvest of older forests has continued. DNR has stated in BNR meetings that the agency does not

intend to pause harvest of older forests while acres for the carbon project are selected.

• DNR has not decided whether the agency will follow voluntary or compliance carbon offset protocols, though agency leadership and staff have indicated DNR is likely to pursue a voluntary protocol. Compliance offset protocols are recognized as the highest, most credible standard for carbon offsets, and require a minimum 100-year duration compared to a 40-year duration for voluntary protocols. A 40-year duration is not consistent with DNR’s commitment to protection in perpetuity.

• DNR is exploring creative options to address the constraints that prevent DNR from commercializing carbon credits, including leasing the land and potential statutory changes.


Carbon Project


• DNR has demonstrated leadership in developing a carbon offset project. The project is a novel approach to forest management and revenue generation on state lands. It marks DNR’s first explicit action to prioritize carbon sequestration on state lands. While the 10,000-acre scope of this project is modest in the context of the vast state trust lands, it is an exciting step and signal that DNR is willing to innovate and modernize management of our state lands for carbon sequestration.

• DNR’s stated intent is to protect ecologically and socioculturally unique forests in perpetuity. Phase 1 includes some biodiverse, carbon-rich, older, remnant forests that have garnered attention from community members and conservationists in the past year. Carbon offset projects are now an important tool in DNR’s toolbox to protect unique stands, alongside Trust Land Transfer and Natural Resource Conservation Areas.

• WEC and other members of the conservation community have urged DNR to pursue carbon sequestration on state trust lands for years. We are pleased to see DNR respond to this call. We believe the project would have benefited from engagement with knowledgeable stakeholders and tribal nations.

• Develop a comprehensive approach to carbon sequestration and storage across state lands, guided by a carbon policy and/or updated Policy for Sustainable Forests. A comprehensive approach must include both protection of unique HCV areas, and climate-smart management practices like extended rotations in areas with existing short-rotation forestry. Carbon offsets can play a role in both categories.

• Explore statutory change to allow DNR to commercialize carbon and other ecosystem services on state lands. This would provide DNR with greater authority and flexibility to scale up carbon offset projects on state lands.

• Establish trust and credibility by using a compliance offset protocol. A compliance offset protocol would ensure permanence of carbon sequestration, safeguarding against change in DNR leadership and policy over the course of the project. DNR could also be an early participant in Washington’s new cap and invest program, supporting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

• Develop a credible methodology for selecting project areas. Identification of candidate acres should be grounded in scientific data collection and consistent guidance to regional DNR staff. DNR’s proposed project will be more durable if the agency demonstrates clear process and prioritization criteria, e.g., patch size, consistency with one or ideally several HCVs, potential for protection using other tools, degree of irreplaceability, and input from stakeholders and tribal nations.

• Share a public stakeholder and tribal nation engagement process to guide selection of project areas. This will make clear to stakeholders and tribal nations how and when to provide input.

• Prioritize inclusion of marbled murrelet habitat not protected by the Long-Term Conservation Strategy, leveraging existing data and analysis. Doing so would be consistent with Solutions Table efforts to protect additional murrelet habitat while also supporting local economic development.

• Center environmental justice in project development. This could include engaging overburdened communities and tribal nations in identification of project areas, and in selling carbon credits to a credible buyer.


Older Forests & Critical Habitat on State Lands

During the past two years, community members have spoken clearly: they value protection of remnant stands of old, structurally complex forests on state lands— what activists refer to as “legacy forests.” These naturally regenerated forests have unique ecological and social value. They serve as habitat for vulnerable species and store and sequester significant carbon. They support clean and cool water flows and enable community access to nature. Once clearcut, these unique ecosystems are not replaceable in the time horizon of a human lifespan. At BNR meetings, the public has consistently raised concerns about DNR’s management of older forests.

Some of the timber sales containing older stands are important habitat for marbled murrelets that were not included in the Long-Term Conservation Strategy,xii though they were included under more protective alternatives supported by the conservation community.

Many of these ecologically valuable forests are not protected by DNR’s Old Growth Policy, which calls for retention of 5+ acres stands of pre-1850 natural origin. However, the State Trust Lands Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)xiii and Policy for Sustainable Forestsxiv include an older forest target for year 100 of the HCP: 10-15% of each Western Washington planning unit as older, fully functional forests, defined by structural characteristics.

In March 2021, a Seattle Times article indicated that DNR and the BNR planned to revisit older forest policies and management.xv The article highlighted Commissioner Franz’s commitment to carry out an assessment of older forests in the following three to four months, pausing timber sales containing older forests in the interim. However, timber sales with older forests continued to come forward.


• Progress has not been clear or transparent towards DNR’s commitment to analyze older forests and explore an updated older forest policy.

• It remains unclear what forests DNR will count towards the 10-15% older forest target, and how the agency plans to meet this objective— which they consider a non-binding goal. A May 2021 DNR memo stated that the agency is relying on existing conservation areas to satisfy the target, e.g., areas protected for spotted owl and marbled murrelet, riparian areas (the areas bordering rivers and other bodies of surface water), and steep and unstable slopes.

• The agency shared a draft report by email entitled “An Analysis of Pre-1900 Forested Stands on DNR-Managed Lands in Western Washington.” This report seemed to be part of DNR’s analysis of older forest commitments. It was never shared publicly nor discussed at the BNR. It did not consider forests originating 1900-1945, as highlighted by community members.

• The BNR expressed interest in re-examining older forests policies, and DNR publicly indicated the BNR would do so. However, DNR did not engage the BNR in meaningful public discussion about an older forest policy or plan. Comments at recent BNR meetings suggest an older forest policy is no longer under consideration.

• There has not been meaningful additional protection of older forests nor response to community concerns. Although some timber harvests containing older forests were temporarily


The ongoing public concern regarding older forests on state lands continues to provide an opportunity for DNR to be responsive to the public. Regaining public trust will require transparency and change in practices to protect the ecological and the sociocultural values of older forests. Many of the opportunities remain the same as last year’s report.

paused or modified, many have moved forward despite public concern.

• Certain local governments have requested a pause on specific timber sales in their counties, particularly Jefferson and Whatcom counties. DNR is exploring potential co-management with counties, which could allow local entities to align management of local state with local goals, including climate goals.

• The carbon offset project announced by DNR has been framed by the CPL as a response to older forest concerns.xi However, it is not yet clear what portion of the carbon project acreage will be dedicated to older forests. The older forest areas under scrutiny significantly exceed 10,000 acres. The carbon offset project is a worthy contribution toward protection of older forests. However, it is insufficient as the totality of DNR’s response. The carbon project should be an element of a larger plan.

• DNR initiated small group dialogues with stakeholders to provide a forum for more meaningful discussion of concerns about older forests. Although the initial conversation was valuable and stakeholders expressed an interest in further dialogue, DNR did not continue them.

• DNR has still not advanced ideas discussed at the Solutions Table. DNR convened the Solutions Table to identify strategies to protect marbled murrelet habitat and create new economic opportunities in rural counties, which is closely related to protection of older forests. The Solutions Table met July 2018 – January 2020 before being disbanded.

• Finalize and share the pre-1900 report, using it to re-initiate conversation at the BNR about development of an older forest policy that responds to interests of the public. Consider additional analysis of structurally complex forests of post-1900 origin.

• Consider a formal policy protecting pre-1900 forests and forests of unique structural complexity or function that originated post-1900.

• Develop a comprehensive plan describing how and where DNR will protect existing older forests and cultivate future older forest conditions. A plan should demonstrate how DNR will achieve the 10-15% older forest target, including by protecting older forests beyond existing conservation areas required by the HCP. Solutions Table proposals could support implementation.

• Use biodiversity pathways and other silvicultural strategies to cultivate the structurally complex, older forests of the future. Biodiversity pathways are included in the PSF as an active management strategy to achieve structural complexity and meet older forest targets.

• Expand engagement with local governments to understand local priorities for DNR-managed lands and to explore co-management. Actions in response to local government input may include protection of High Conservation Value areas and extended rotations, which can support achievement of local climate goals.


Washington State government has a tradition of participatory governance. Ideally, our government creates an interactive platform for citizens and stakeholders to consider important issues. Board of Natural Resources meetings should facilitate engagement on state lands management that is meaningful, rather than perfunctory.

During COVID, DNR has made some improvements to public participation. It has also made some missteps. On the positive side, a virtual format has facilitated greater public access to decision-making on public lands. The increased participation at BNR meetings is a signal of growing awareness and concern regarding management of state lands. Citizens and stakeholders are motivated by how they see government decisions affecting their lives and communities.

Public Participation at the Board of Natural Resources

However, the agency responded to increased public engagement by limiting comments to a 60-minute comment period, and a 2-minute limit per person. These time constraints prevent many stakeholders from speaking. This has generated frustration. Further, it is unclear if stakeholder comments are genuinely heard or taken into consideration.

In natural resource issues, there is no single public. BNR meetings are an important forum for the broad range of stakeholders to make their voices heard, especially local and community stakeholders who may have fewer ways to engage with the agency.

DNR should not be concerned that allowing robust participation requires satisfying the requests of every member of the public. We would like to see DNR and the BNR solicit diverse views and concerns, take those views into consideration, balance the input, and reflect back to the public how views were considered and decisions were made.

We recognize that facilitating effective public participation can be challenging, and that BNR members are busy individuals with significant demands on their time. There is opportunity for DNR to re-think public participation in state lands management, particularly in light of the CNW v. Franz decision that allows greater consideration of public benefit of state lands. We present the following ideas for consideration:

• A quarterly forum for substantive dialogue between the public and the BNR and consideration of new solutions. Issues can be focused on specific policy or legislative matters, with the agency establishing parameters for dialogue.

• Public sessions with DNR staff where technical assistance is offered to the public so that they can better understand how staff decisions are made.

• Panel presentations to the BNR on topical issues of the day, featuring diverse views and enabling an honest exchange of ideas.

Trust Land Transfer

Trust Land Transfer (TLT) allows DNR to move state trust land of high ecological and social value into conservation and then to purchase replacement lands to compensate the trusts. The program, started in 1989, enables the state to create and expand areas of protected public lands. TLT has proven one of the most effective conservation programs in the state– protecting over 125,000 acres of Washington’s priority natural areas and critical habitats to date and, until recently, was funded by the state legislature in the range of $35-60 million per biennium.


The long-time program was not funded in the 2021 legislative session, but a successful budget proviso appropriated funds for a work group of stakeholders. In the last year, this work group has been working on improving TLT to make it more consistent, transparent, repeatable, and effective.

The reforms to the program include:

• Establishing an advisory committee to rank and prioritize nominated parcels,

• More robust tracking and reporting,

• Improved process for determining if a transfer is in the best interests of the trust beneficiaries,

• New webpage,

• Changes to funding allocation to increase replacement land funding,

• Expansion of the program to all types of state trust lands.

We are excited about these reforms and are eager to see them implemented. This year, DNR will seek TLT funding for a list of already-identified parcels. In the future, the public will be able to nominate parcels that will be prioritized by a public advisory group for state funding consideration. Some of these reforms still require funding, statutory changes, and further discussion.


To revitalize TLT, DNR will need to follow through on TLT reforms in the 2023 legislative session with a substantial ask and advocacy to secure full funding and statute passages. After a hiatus in funding, DNR has an opportunity to send a strong signal about the importance of TLT by making a budget request that will fund all ten prioritized candidate parcels.



• A legal complaint was filed by OFCO in July regarding the OESF Landscape Management Plan. This lawsuit is about accountability and following best science. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) provided the state with a 70-year incidental take permit to harm northern spotted owls and bull trout through logging and road building, based on the State’s commitment to adapt to new science and conditions. This sciencebased adaptation has not happened. In a rapidly changing environment, it is important that the Service make reasonable adjustments to protect the complex forest habitat and clean cold water on which owls and bull trout rely. This can be done primarily through protection of riparian buffers and retention of older forest habitat. OFCO sued the Service to make sure that the Service and the state comply with their commitments to protect ecosystems on the Olympic Peninsula and respond to pressing threats to the species. OFCO wants to ensure that DNR’s habitat conservation plan works as promised.

• DNR has launched the “Type 3 Watershed Study” (T3 study), now underway, which is intended to “identify alternative forest management treatments

in both riparian and upland areas that benefit both forest and community health.” The T3 study does not adequately address research required by the HCP and more broadly to inform DNR’s forest management across the landscape, especially in the face of climate disruption. The study has significant gaps in research regarding smaller streams, wetlands, and surface waters, and misses the opportunity to research carbon flows or the impacts of climate change.

• On-going independent monitoring of timber sales in the OESF by OFCO shows:

1. DNR’s significant expansion of road networks,

2. Inadequate mapping of and protections for critical hydrological features,

3. Inadequate identification and protection of unstable slopes and surfaces,

4. Continued spread of noxious weeds and other invasive species, particularly scotch broom, which detrimentally impacts ecosystem function and carbon storage.

Olympic Experimental State Forest

The 270,000-acre Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF) on the Olympic Peninsula provides habitat for several threatened and endangered species including the marbled murrelet, the northern spotted owl, the bull trout, and the Lake Ozette sockeye salmon. DNR’s 1997 Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) set aside the OESF as a research zone to test forest management strategies, monitoring, and adaptation.


• The Supreme Court’s decision on CNW v. Franz provides an opportunity to move away from clearcutting and transition to more ecological forest management in the OESF. Ecologically-based thinning designed to restore forest health and structural complexity, while minimizing additional road building, can provide timber volume and revenue to local communities and mills.

• Improve implementation of the SEPA process to protect the public right to review, comment, and seek correction of timber sales to meet HCP requirements. One way to do so would be to ensure the twoweek comment period for the Forest Practices Application precedes the two-week comment

period under SEPA, rather than the two comment periods running concurrently.

• Significant opportunity exists to incorporate scientific research into the T3 study. Two examples of valuable research are: 1) Analysis of carbon dynamics and carbon sequestration combining remote sensing and field-based measurements; and 2) Research on the impacts of harvest to Type 5 streams and surface waters, which are wetlands and forest seeps too small to be protected under current rules. While scientific working groups continue to meet to explore opportunities for research as part of the T3 study, harvest plans are advancing and time is short. There is a need to intentionally align timelines for research design and implementation with harvest plans.

Co-written by Olympic Forest Coalition WEC/WCV
(OFCO) and

Issues onPrivate Forest Lands

This section addresses topics relevant to the 9.3 million acres of private forestlands (non-federal, non-tribal) that are subject to the DNR-administered Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan.

DNR has a unique role in the forest practices program: the CPL, or their designee, chairs the Forest Practices Board (FPB) and DNR staff serves as FPB staff. DNR regulates forest practices activities, and DNR is a participant within the Adaptive Management Program (AMP). Therefore, DNR is best positioned to provide the leadership needed for the AMP process to function effectively.

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Adaptive Management Program Improvement

In 1987, members of the forest policy community developed the landmark Timber Fish and Wildlife (TFW) Agreement. Participants included landowners, representatives of tribal nations, conservation organizations, and state agencies. The foundational principle of the TFW Agreement was that a healthy timber industry and the enhancement and protection of Washington’s natural and cultural resources are shared goals; not mutually exclusive. Participant caucuses (westside tribes, eastside tribes, conservation, industrial landowners, small forest landowners, state agencies, and later counties) agreed to engage in the difficult work of collaborative decision-making in the regulation of forestry throughout the state of Washington.

The agreement was monumental in that it established cooperative working relationships among participants who had been fighting for decades. It also laid the

groundwork for the state’s AMP and the Habitat Conservation Plan with the federal government.

However, in the decades that have followed, the collaborative spirit of the TFW agreement has dissipated and relationships have frayed. Attempts to address problems within the AMP began at the FPB level before Commissioner Franz assumed office and have continued during her time in office.

In the summer of 2021, the FPB formalized a workplan to address a highly critical Washington State Auditor’s Office (SAO) performance report of the AMP. The responses were to be advanced by different levels of AMP participants: the principals (senior decision makers within caucuses), the FPB, TFW Policy, and the Cooperative Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research Committee.

Evaluation• AMP staff have largely maintained momentum on the FPB approved workplan. A number of the recommendations have been or are in the process of being addressed. One task at TFW Policy, adopting a Net Gains approach for the program, has been difficult to define and to determine its utility. As a result, work on Net Gains has stalled.

• Ultimately, relationship problems need to be addressed by the principals. The SAO report recognized this by suggesting required participation of the principal level of caucuses. Additionally, the FPB response asked the principals to consider changing the decision-making framework of the AMP.

• This year, the CPL and DNR staff reconvened the principals for the first time since 2019.

• The hurried planning of these meetings has been counterproductive to the meaningful conversations needed to strengthen relationships. Meeting agendas have not been clear, nor have they been consistently shared in advance. The handful of principals meetings held this year did not give participants sufficient notice to ensure participation. The decision to not recognize caucus’ self-identified principals limited the participation of some caucuses, including tribes and conservation.

• Principal meetings have not focused on changes to the decision-making structure, as the SAO and DNR assigned to principals.

• The objective of the principals dialogue is unclear. More direction is needed to define how the principals dialogue can add value without interfering with the formal, statutorily defined AMP structure. For example, one principals meeting was initially framed as a “dispute” process regarding a technical decision under consideration at the FPB. Disputes follow a formal resolution process within the AMP. By design, this process does not include the principals as the issues are technical in nature.

• As a result, despite the time dedicated to these meetings, caucus relationships remain strained. Given that critical rulemaking decisions are now before the AMP, this atmosphere is problematic.

• Addressing caucus relationships remains a major challenge, but the CPL, the FPB, and DNR staff should be commended for their persistence in keeping these discussions moving forward. Given the effort the AMP has put into reconvening principals and addressing the SAO report, this section is graded as a Work in Progress.


The principals meetings hold potential, as evidenced by the time busy leaders of caucuses have dedicated to attending. It is reasonable for the CPL to focus energy on convening principals.

• To improve principals meetings, planning should be improved to ensure decision makers can attend. Allowing caucuses to selfselect their own principals representatives, which DNR recently allowed, is also critical to facilitate effective and collaborative participation.

• There is a need to clarify the role and purpose of principals meetings to make them more effective. This should include

establishing that the principals level is not the appropriate place to resolve specific, technical AMP issues that are going through the formal AMP process. Principals have designated staff to address these issues. Further, planned decisions and meetings in the AMP process must not be delayed contingent upon holding principals meetings. DNR should instead guide the principals to focus on AMP decision-making structure and relationships— the arena in which principals can best help the AMP succeed. If the principals can solidify the foundational goals of TFW and the AMP, this will empower participants in the program to address each other’s issues in a collaborative spirit.


Water Typing Rulemaking

Water typing is a DNR classification system that identifies fish habitat in streams and other bodies of water. The Forest Regulation Division uses water types to determine how large a forested buffer is required to protect streams during logging operations. Trees provide shade and filtration that are vital to keep water cool and clean, necessary for the survival of species like salmon. For example, if a stream in western Washington is fish habitat, logging might not be permitted within 68 to 150 feet of the stream bank. If the stream is not fish habitat, the buffer might be smaller, allowing logging within 0 to 50 feet of the bank. Forest practices rules have operated under a temporary water typing rule for 25 years. Despite many efforts, the state’s Adaptive Management Program (AMP) has been unable to adopt a permanent rule.


• In November 2016, the Forest Practices Board (FPB), which is chaired by the CPL or their delegate, formally initiated the process of adopting a permanent water typing rule. At the time, the aim was to finalize the rule components by May 2017. Over five years later, rule components still are not finalized.

• This winter, a workgroup directed by the FPB completed a nearly 3-year effort to analyze a rule component: which parts of the stream network are presumed to be habitat for anadromous fish (fish that migrate upstream from saltwater to spawn). The FPB scheduled a briefing in February on the final technical hurdles to moving a rule package forward, as well as the preferred rulemaking alternatives selected by caucuses. The February meeting was unilaterally cancelled by DNR staff, without conferring with the entirety of the FPB.

• Next, the FPB a scheduled a special meeting in April. The April meeting was also cancelled by DNR staff, with the concerning rationale that if it proceeded, the FPB would be at risk of litigation over the decision. DNR staff asserted it would be better for the FPB to provide caucuses more space to find agreement on alternatives.

• The FPB received a briefing on the workgroup’s alternatives at a special meeting in late June, despite no change in circumstances. The associated report included each the preferred alternative of each caucus in the workgroup. DNR was the only member of the workgroup that did not express support for any single alternative.

• At its August meeting, the FPB directed DNR staff to prepare the rulemaking package for all components other than components that would define presumed habitat for anadromous fish. At the CPL’s suggestion, the FPB accepted two proposed alternatives but explicitly directed staff not to begin the requisite analysis of those alternatives. Analysis was delayed by three months, which was again presented as an opportunity for caucuses to find consensus.

• DNR’s position is that no further FPB action is required to begin analysis of the remaining rule component after this three-month period; it will begin in November. After the November FPB meeting, DNR staff will begin analyzing all components of the water typing rule.

• For a quarter century, AMP participants have been mired in disagreements over how and where to protect fish habitat. Over the past year, the stakeholder workgroup completed its work and offered the FPB options to identify anadromous fish habitat. DNR’s response to this milestone was to repeatedly and unilaterally delay a FPB decision. Despite this lack of urgency and leadership for the majority of the year, DNR ultimately moved the FPB a step forward towards a Water Typing Rule. This incremental progress towards adopting a permanent water typing rule is why this topic merits a Work in Progress.


The next year will present numerous opportunities for DNR to demonstrate leadership in the water typing rulemaking process.

• Public comments by DNR staff and stakeholders clearly indicate litigation over this rulemaking is a concern. DNR staff and leadership should trust and affirm the program has completed the work necessary to complete rulemaking in a credible manner.

• The FPB, with the CPL’s leadership, must ensure DNR staff begins this analysis of the water typing rule package in November. FPB staff processing the rulemaking package will then face difficult decisions in the development of language and rule analyses. Staff, under the CPL’s direction, should be empowered to dispense with these decisions rapidly and to proceed with rulemaking as quickly as possible.

• While getting to a final rule as quickly as possible is imperative, it remains equally important to develop a rule that adequately protects fish habitat— the North Star of the AMP. DNR has the opportunity to lead by example and to remind the FPB and caucuses that their mission is to protect fish habitat and to ensure forest practices in Washington support salmon recovery.

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Protecting Stream Temperature in Headwater Streams & Clean Water Act Assurances

The Adaptive Management Program (AMP) is designed to study the ability of the state’s forest practices rules to meet the AMP’s objectives, and then to adjust these rules as needed. One objective of the AMP is to “meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.” Cool temperatures are essential for water quality, as well as for downstream fish habitat. Tree cover in riparian areas is an important determinant of water temperature. Forest management activities often reduce forest cover in riparian areas. As a result, the Department of Ecology (DOE) issued a determination known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) Assurances: if the AMP is functioning effectively, forest management activities on private land across the state will be considered compliant with the state’s water quality standards.


• In 2018, a long-term study commissioned by the AMP found that timber harvest buffers on roughly 30% of nonfish bearing, perennial streams (Type Np) in Western Washington increase stream temperatures beyond what is allowed under the state’s water quality standards.xvi

• In 2022, a second long-term study found similar results on the remaining 70% of Type Np streams in Western Washington.xvii

• Because the studies found that the harvest buffers on Type Np streams in Western Washington do not meet water quality standards, AMP participants began working to update the forest practices rules. Simultaneously, the DOE extended the CWA Assurances to allow time for the AMP to develop new harvest criteria to ensure compliance. The DOE set an expectation that rulemaking should begin in 2021.

• At its November 2021 meeting, the FPB issued a notice to the public that rulemaking would begin. While not progressing as originally intended by the DOE’s director when an extension of the assurances was issued, the progress at the FPB and within the AMP convinced the DOE to grant another extension of the Assurances until December of 2022.

• More than four years have passed since the first Type Np study was finalized. The length of time the AMP has taken develop recommendations for rule changes to protect stream temperature to the FPB is very concerning. However, we recognize that for efficiency, the AMP tied a response to the completion of both Type Np studies. Therefore, any recommendation was delayed until completion of the second study. Given this, and the fact that work has been completed at pace this year, this section merits a Work in Progress.


• Conducting scientific studies, and responding by adapting forest practices rules when necessary, is the purpose of the AMP. The suite of Type Np studies represents the first completed comprehensive studies that indicate the program needs to change rules in response to scientific findings. This provides the AMP its first opportunity to demonstrate it can live up to its purpose and tackle big challenges when they arise. Over the next year it is imperative that the FPB and DNR staff keep the momentum on developing a Type Np rule, demonstrating that the AMP can be successful.

• This fall, the FPB, with DNR’s support, must select a proposed rule alternative and direct staff to begin analysis of the proposed rule package. Done with clear direction, this work should give confidence to the DOE and to stakeholders that the AMP is protecting water temperature in sensitive streams.

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Compliance Monitoring

Monitoring DNR’s on-the-ground implementation of the forest practices rules is an integral pillar of the state’s Adaptive Management Program (AMP) and Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). Monitoring allows the public to understand whether current forest practices rules meet the objectives of the AMP. If monitoring demonstrates that the objectives of the AMP are not met, this indicates a need to reevaluate and to adjust forest practices rules.

DNR conducts three types of monitoring for the AMP: effectiveness monitoring, extensive monitoring and compliance monitoring. Effectiveness and extensive monitoring studies evaluate how well forest practices rules meet the objectives of the program. However, this monitoring is only informative if we are confident of adherence to forest practices rules on the ground. Thus, the AMP conducts compliance monitoring to determine if forest practices rules are followed in the field.


• To accurately measure the level of compliance with Forest Practices rules, DNR’s compliance monitoring program must evaluate and publicly report Forest Practices Act compliance. Two issues make current compliance monitoring murky:

1. Compliance calculations inflate compliance rates: The narrative presented in compliance reports focuses on aggregated compliance of all the harvest prescriptions within a rule. The decision to lead with these aggregated numbers gives the impression of inflated compliance rates. It provides inconsistent standards of evaluation across the landscape. It distracts from potential serious concerns at the prescription level. As a result, it is difficult to gain a meaningful understanding of the real level of compliance on the ground.

2. Compliance monitoring does not differentiate the significance of potential impacts of different types of non-compliance: To provide better information about the effects of noncompliance on riparian ecosystems,

compliance reports should rigorously sort findings of non-compliance into categories based on the severity of the impacts on aquatic resources. For example, a clearcut to a fish stream will have a clear negative effect on the riparian ecosystem. In contrast, improperly identifying tree species in a stream buffer will likely have a marginal effect. Still, both actions affect the calculation or assessment of non-compliance in the same way. Categorizing non-compliance based on potential damage to aquatic resources will help AMP to prioritize efforts to improve compliance rates in a way that improves outcomes for aquatic resources under the forest practices HCP.

• In the most recent report, it was an improvement to see DNR compliance monitoring staff recommend changes to forest practices to better achieve compliance. The report found deficiencies in harvest activities delineating wetlands and leaving the requisite number of trees along fish bearing streams. In the future, such recommendations could be more prominently highlighted in the narrative.


• DNR has the opportunity to demonstrate the AMP can learn from its compliance monitoring program. Over the next year, DNR and AMP participants can work together to adopt the recommended changes of program staff.

• To make compliance rates more understandable to stakeholders and to the public, DNR first must clearly and publicly disclose compliance

rate targets. Compliance reports should then compare the harvest prescription compliance rates with their targeted compliance rates. This narrative change will better align the reports to their stated goal to “identify gaps in rule compliance and to try to understand why they may exist relative to administrative or operational implementation.”


Expansion of Small Forest Landowner Technical Support

Small forest landowners manage a significant portion of the state’s forests: 15% as of 2019.xix The small forest landowner office was established in 1999 by HB 2091. It has operated with limited staffing in recent years. The 2021 wildfire funding bill (HB 1168) and other state and federal funds have allowed DNR to expand staffing in the Small Forest Landowner Office (SFLO) and other divisions, including in outreach, regulation assistance, service forestry, and contracting.

Regulation assistance foresters assist small landowners with forest practices-related questions and with the state’s Forest Practices Application process. Service foresters advise landowners on timber harvests, resource protection, forest health, wildfire risk, and other topics related to wildlife habitat, recreation, and aesthetics. DNR has identified a goal of establishing the SFLO as a “one stop shop” for private, non-industrial landowners. After many years of limited staffing, the current wave of hiring is a key step in realizing this goal.


• In the past year, DNR has hired an outreach coordinator, a program manager, a water typing biologist, five regulation assistance foresters, and 17 service foresters (previously “stewardship foresters”).

• Increased staff capacity, the launch of the Landowner Assistance Portal,xviii and the establishment of a DNR small forestland owner cost-share program in Western Washington have provided additional support and responded to a need identified by small forestland owners.

• The increase in staffing more than doubled the number of site visits and forest health treatments completed on small forestland holdings from the JulySeptember 2021 quarter to the April-June 2022 quarter. This support has allowed DNR to make progress on the backlog of requests for assistance from small forest landowners.

• More implementation time is needed to understand the impact of this recent influx of hiring and funding. In the coming years, it will be important for DNR to evaluate whether expanded support is meeting the needs of small forest landowners, whether support is structured in an effective way, and how support is translating into improving management and achieving forest health objectives.


• The SFLO can leverage newly expanded capacity to reach more small forestland owners with holdings of 100 acres or less. Reports published by the USFS in 2018xx and the University of Washington/DNR in 2021xix demonstrate significant differences in values between small forestland owners with smaller versus larger holdings. Both outreach and support services should reflect these differences. Creative outreach will be required to connect with the full range smaller landowners who may not be affiliated with industry organizations.

• New capacity provides an opportunity to evolve the priorities and support offered to landowners. DNR could reengage in collaboration with partners who

assist small forestland owners to develop forest management plans and to implement ecological forestry practices. Such partnerships could help small forest landowners to implement carbon offset projects and to access other forms of financial incentives for ecological forest management.

• Funding from HB 1168 has supported the expansion of DNR’s SFLO office. However, it’s not yet clear that this increased capacity has helped achieving wildfire-related objectives. DNR should utilize HB 1168 funding to support fire-adapted forest landscapes on smallholder properties, including prescribed burning where ecologically appropriate.

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Issues on State Aquatic Lands

This section addresses topics relevant to DNR’s management of more than 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, which include tidelands, shorelands, harbor areas and the beds of navigable waters.


Derelict Vessel Removal Program & Marine Debris Removal

Derelict vessels pose serious threats to aquatic habitat, water quality, public safety, and navigation. Fortunately, DNR has the authority to take possession and dispose of vessels abandoned by their owners. The department has removed over 1,000 vessels from Washington’s waters over the years. Many are large vessels that are complicated and costly to remove safely. Because of this, DNR often depletes available funding part way through each biennium.

In addition to vessels, DNR manages the Marine Debris Removal Program that focuses on creosote timbers and their toxic leachate, as well as bulky materials that impair aquatic habitat. Creosote timbers are the largest direct source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to marine waters of Puget Sound, which is toxic to aquatic life and problematic for people who come into contact with it.

disposal of qualifying vessels. This program provides a less costly way to remove and dispose of vessels. So far, 18 vessels have been removed by this program, with 22 more in process.

• During the 2022 legislative session, DNR found common interests among environmental organizations, ports, and recreational boaters to establish durable funding for DVRP. The legislature passed agency-request legislation to shift 25% of the existing watercraft excise tax from the State General Fund to DVRP. Approximately $7.5 million per biennium will enable DVRP to remove significantly more vessels each year without having to ask for annual appropriations in the crowded capital budget.

• DNR’s MyCoast reporting App remains a public resource for cataloguing marine debris. Over the past year, the program has removed over 540,000 pounds of marine debris from 117 different public and private shoreline sites in 15 counties. Projects include the Elger Bay Estuary Preserve on the west side of Camano Island with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, the traditional territories of the Samish Indian Nation, the greater Port Susan area around the mouth of the Stillaguamish River, and salt marsh habitat in Grays Harbor. Working directly with communities impacted by debris provides multiple benefits.


• DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program (DVRP) continues to be an extremely effective and successful program, removing over 60 vessels in the previous biennium. In addition, DNR operates the Vessel Turn-In Program for responsible


• Each year more vessels are abandoned or in danger of being abandoned. DNR should continue to increase dedicated funding to remove all derelict vessels and to prevent further abandoned vessels. DNR also should ensure sufficient staff capacity to manage the program. DNR should investigate innovative ways to get ahead of the problem through amnesty programs for problematic vessels.

• Marine debris programs should continue good stewardship practices and working directly with tribes and local communities impacted by this problem.

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Kelp & Eelgrass Protection & Recovery



DNR manages 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, including important kelp and eelgrass marine habitats that indicate the health of Puget Sound. Kelp and eelgrass function as nurseries for the early stages of aquatic life and can provide both refuge from, and mitigation of, ocean acidification. DNR has been monitoring eelgrass and kelp for decades and established the Acidification Nearshore Monitoring Network (ANeMoNe) in 2015 to study climate change and ocean acidification in nearshore environments.


• In early 2022, the Nearshore Habitat Program published a report and a story map based on 20 years of eelgrass monitoring in Puget Sound. While overall the total eelgrass area had not changed much, the analysis did find significant declines in the San Juan Islands, Skagit Bay, and in protected bays. This is a good example of the benefits of long-term monitoring and the commitment it takes to track such vital habitat through year-to-year variations to identify longer-term trends.

• DNR also has been collaborating with multiple organizations on developing a new Puget Sound kelp indicator to track the health of Puget Sound. The work is a good example of a thoughtful and deliberate approach working with a range of partners, and drawing from existing data sets from state agency monitoring, community science, and indigenous scientific knowledge.

• DNR’s commitments to these important habitats also manifested in the agency’s work to pass new legislation that directs DNR to work with partners on a Native Kelp Forest and Eelgrass Meadow Health and Conservation Plan, with specific targets of at least 10,000 acres conserved and restored by 2040. This bipartisan bill includes regular reporting and adjustments to track accountability and adapt the program over time.

• Coordination with agencies, tribes, and other organizations is key to the long-term health of kelp forests and eelgrass beds. We urge DNR to continue to commit resources to implementing the plan. While the plan is a strong step forward, we would like to see DNR expand the goal from 10,000 acres by 2040 to an earlier 2030 timeline. Time is short.

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habitat from freshwater through marine waters and released a set of objective, quantitative measures to track progress.

• DNR withdrew 2,300 acres of nearshore habitat from its leasing program to create a Kelp and Eelgrass Protection Zone near the mouth of the Snohomish.

• DNR had previously funded a Washington Conservation Corps crew to assist with forage fish surveys, as part of Recommendation 15, but has discontinued that support. A sister agency is searching for funding.

• Originally, DNR was tasked with overseeing a zooplankton program to inform conservation efforts related to forage fish and chinook salmon. That has now been shifted to other agencies.

• DNR’s progress on kelp and eelgrass could help mitigate impacts of climate change on aquatic lands, under Recommendation 45.

Implementing Orca Recovery Task Force Recommendations


DNR served on the 2018-19 Orca Recovery Task Force that identified 49 different actions needed to ensure the health of Southern Resident orcas. Many of those recommendations involve DNR’s core agency mission areas, including decreasing pollution and protecting and recovering habitat to increase prey availability for orcas.

Task Force Recommendations 1 and 2 focus on chinook habitat and nearshore regions, Recommendations 15 and 16 on monitoring and managing conditions for forage fish health, Recommendation 27 on addressing potential impacts on orcas from increased vessel traffic from permit applications, Recommendation 31 on accelerating cleanup of toxics from the removal of abandoned vessels from state waters, and Recommendation 45 on mitigating impacts of a changing climate. Continued implementation of the Task Force recommendations is needed to ensure a future for Southern Resident orcas in the Salish Sea.


• DNR has made some laudable progress on multiple Orca Task Force recommendations and needs to continue ramping up these programs. For example, under Recommendations 1 and 2, DNR announced a focus on the Snohomish watershed to improve salmon


• Not all of DNR’s activities implementing elements of the Orca Task Force recommendations have been shared with www.orca.wa.gov, and we recommend prioritizing that site to add transparency, build public support, and track success over time.

• We encourage DNR to lean into the Snohomish Basin salmon strategy and to make the vision a reality. However, we would like to see this funded on top of existing salmon programs rather than taking money away from those programs. We support this focus and urge DNR to clearly articulate the case for additional financial investment.

• DNR has many opportunities to do more for orca recovery such as accelerating the removal of abandoned vessels from waters that endanger orcas and salmon habitat. It could also undertake more shoreline restoration and protection efforts to benefit salmon habitat. The recent McNeil Island Shorelines Restoration Project provides a good example. Leaning into the generally good work of the Aquatics Division will provide multiple benefits.

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Clean Energy Project Review & Siting

Recent passage of the Clean Energy Transformation Act, Climate Commitment Act, and Clean Fuel Standard, as well as the update to our state’s greenhouse gas emission targets, has significantly increased the demand for clean energy facilities.

Commissioner Franz has set a goal to lease DNR-managed land for 500 megawatts of solar energy development by 2025xxi. The Clean Energy Program within DNR is working on a mapping tool to proactively assess DNR managed lands for potential solar development. It is also managing a leasing program for wind and other clean energy generation facilities.

DNR’s management of public lands that are eligible for energy development can help set the baseline for thoughtful and meaningful project identification as well as review of the potential impacts of those projects.


• Continued work is needed to ensure the equitable siting of clean energy generation on public land so that these projects reduce social and environmental harm. DNR has articulated its commitment to this work, and this is currently a work in progress. We will be looking to better understand outcomes of this work, including:

° Mapping and information tools that make clear how developers should engage with tribal nations regarding their resources and treaty protected rights; how to evaluate community impacts; and support for least impact projects,

° Standard of review process and permitting decisions, and

° Advancement of best use of public lands.


These laws and policies are critically important for Washington state to play a leadership role in addressing the climate crisis. At the same time, the siting and development of clean energy projects must be done in a way that respects and upholds the sovereignty of tribal

nations, supports-family wage jobs, and benefits communities that have been most impacted by the pollution and loss of land and resources due to energy and economic development from years past.


DNR has an important opportunity to demonstrate how to manage the review and permitting process for clean energy generation facilities by conducting early consultation with tribal nations and by engaging with the community in a way that finds common priorities for the siting of facilities. DNR can share the process, lessons learned, and outcomes of its work overtime to inform other efforts related to energy project siting.

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Other Notable Work

March’s Point Renegotiation of Lease: In 2021, DNR had an opportunity to renegotiate the aquatic lease when Holly Frontier purchased what was the Shell refinery at March’s Point. This marked the first opportunity to amend lease language since any of the big four refinery leases in north Puget Sound were issued 15-21 years ago. In this renegotiation, DNR successfully capped vessel traffic (an important part of supporting recovery of Southern Resident Orcas), accelerated management of creosote-treated pilings to remove toxic creosote from the marine environment, as well as other protections and studies to support future restoration.

Special Legislative Thanks

During the 2022 legislative session, the commissioner and DNR were supportive of the following important environmental priorities.

Two important legislative successes—Conserving kelp and eelgrass meadows (2SSB 5619) and Dedicated funding for the derelict vessel removal program (HB 1700)—are described and evaluated in the Aquatics section.

Safe harbor agreement for northern spotted owls (SB 5411): The Northern Spotted Owl Implementation Team commissioned by the FPB recommended DNR enter into a statewide Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) with US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as a strategy for spotted owl recovery. The legislature appropriated funds

for DNR to hire a consultant in 2021 to complete drafting of the SHA. This DNR request bill is needed to authorize DNR to enter into the SHA with the USFWS. The SHA would incentivize private landowners to maintain and restore spotted owl habitat. The bill was nearly successful this past session. The DNR’s renewed focus on this issue is welcome, as will be continued efforts to get the bill passed and to support early implementation efforts.

Forest Practices Online (FpOnline) via Forest Practices Fees (SB 5673): This bill proposed modest increases to forest practices application fees for the first time in 10 years in order to fund a new forest practices online system. The online review system for forest applications is over 20 years old and needs improved functionality and transparency. The bill did not pass.

Thankfully, DNR has directed funds to upgrade the system. The pursuit of long-term funding for the sustainability of this new program will be vitally important.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Funding:

DNR secured a $3.4 million investment from the state’s General Fund to expand coverage of high-resolution geospatial data to the entire state. DNR uses LiDAR data for assessing and monitoring riparian areas, forest health projects, fish habitats, and flooding and geological hazards. LiDAR is also crucial to the implementation of Forest Practices rules, including the evaluation of potentially unstable slopes and landslides, the modeling of fish habitats, and the identification of forest wetlands.

State Forest Lands Replacement: In December of 2021, the Board of Natural Resources approved a land transaction to transfer 230 acres of state forestlands in Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Skamania counties into permanent conservation status. The parcels selected include old growth patches, and habitat for marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl. In exchange, these counties received $3.375 million to fund essential services. Replacement forestlands will be purchased to generate funds through timber harvest. The State Forest Land Replacement Program is an important tool to protect ecologically important areas that meet the conservation requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

Fish Passage Barrier Removal: DNR removed 25 fish passage barriers on state lands in 2021, completing the last of the agency’s legal obligations under Forest Practices Road Maintenance and Abandonment Planning (RMAP). This was a two-decade long effort during which DNR restored fish passage at more than 2,000 sites and made accessible more than 800 miles of fish habitat across the state. Removal of culverts and barriers to fish is critical for restoring fish access to suitable habitat and supporting salmon recovery.

Webster Nursery: DNR’s work on ecological resilience includes supplying seeds and seedlings for reforestation and replanting. Reforestation and restoration are increasingly significant as Washington experiences more high-intensity, severe wildfires and other climate-related disturbances. DNR’s Webster Nursery is a critical resource to address a backlog of reforestation projects amid numerous closures of other nurseries over the past 20+ years. DNR is requesting funding to support a strategic plan and expansion of the nursery’s facilities, including a new seed processing plant to increase seed production capacity by 50%.

Wildfire Suppression: In DNR’s role as the state’s wildfire fighting force, the agency provides vital protection to Washington’s communities. As of September 7th, DNR had responded to 601 fires in 2022 and contained 95% of fires to less than 10 acres. DNR used funding from HB 1168 to expand the agency’s fleet of response vehicles as well as to increase staffing in wildfire suppression. New staffing includes 691 firefighters compared to 21 firefighters in 2021.

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Topics We’re Tracking

Trust Lands Performance Initiative (TLPI): In 2021, DNR published the Trust Land Performance Assessment (TLPA).xxii This analysis of the state trust lands portfolio was intended to inform transformation and modernization of trust land management. DNR’s TLPI will build on this work to “to optimize the state trust lands portfolio to meet the needs of today and those of future generations.”xxiii WEC supports modernization of trust land management to meet today’s needs, including consistency with the Supreme Court’s CNW v. Franz decision— which affirms that DNR is not required to maximize revenue. The TLPA report makes numerous references to DNR’s duty to

includes the following guidance on the SHC: “The department will analyze the financial characteristics of forest stands in order to optimize the economic value of forest stands and timber production over time, in calculating the sustainable harvest level.”ix Currently, the SHC methodology optimizes timber revenue. Before embarking on the SHC, the BNR must evaluate objectives, update the PSF, and redesign the SHC as a multi-objective process which pursues carbon sequestration, climate resilience, and other ecological and social goals in addition to revenue.

Wildfire Funding Bill (HB 1168)

Promoting Sustainable and LocallySourced Forest Products: A June 2022 Seattle Times opinion piece authored by Commissioner Franz outlined a three-part DNR forest strategy which included “advance the use of sustainable, locally sourced forest products.”xxiv DNR is well positioned to support climate-smart wood supply chains by connecting engagement on workforce development, trust land management, wildfire risk reduction, and the Central Washington Initiative. To date, DNR has not been active in the climate-smart wood space. To be credible, DNR efforts to promote sustainable wood products must distinguish between conventional practices and climate-smart forest management, which enhances climate change mitigation, adaptation, and equity. A near-term opportunity for DNR to support climate-smart wood supply chains is Buy Clean, Buy Fair legislation.

Implementation: Given the significance of the 8-year, $500 million funding committed by the legislature through HB 1168, we look forward to more information about expenditures and impacts. The first report to the legislature on December 1, 2022 will provide more information about how DNR has allocated funding to date and how implementation meets the legislative intent. We hope to see greater transparency and efficiency in the allocation of funds into the next biennium. Information on expenditure to date indicates a strong prioritization of funding for wildfire suppression. With suppression capacity now bolstered, there’s a need for a more holistic approach moving forward, including strong support of community wildfire resilience.

Workforce development: We look forward to seeing the ongoing efforts mandated by HB 1168 to develop a range of pathways for education and workforce development. Investment in these areas should prioritize historically marginalized, underrepresented, rural, and low-income communities. We also hope that these efforts will address challenges related to the seasonality of prescribed fire, wildfire, and forest health labor including cross-training that enables year-round employment for the workforce.

maximize economic return as Trust Manager. It will be important for the TLPI to position DNR to operate within this new legal framework created by the Court’s decision.

Sustainable Harvest Calculation (SHC): DNR has initiated the 2025-2034 SHC process, which determines timber harvest levels on state trust lands. DNR will pursue two decadal calculations: one for the Westside and, for the first time, one for the Eastside. The upcoming SHC processes will be important to translating DNR’s new clarified trust mandate into on-the-ground management. The now-outdated Policy for Sustainable Forests (PSF)

Urban and Community Forests: In 2021, DNR passed an Urban and Community Forestry bill (HB 1216) and plans to submit a request to the legislature in 2023 to create a plan to expand tree canopy cover. We are interested to understand the progress towards implementation of HB 1216, as well as how the forthcoming requests will complement and build on HB 1216 and the work of community-based organizations around the state. We also look forward to more clarity on DNR’s strategic vision for urban forestry and are interested to see how DNR’s work will expand with the added capacity of seven recent hires.

Capitol Lake Dam Removal: DNR owns the aquatic lands underneath Capitol Lake, an artificial impoundment of the Deschutes Estuary. Future estuary restoration will require DNR to be a partner in recovery as the Department of Enterprise Services completes the Environmental Impact Statement. Now that estuary restoration is identified as the preferred alternative rather than the impoundment, DNR should use its role on the State Capital Campus Committee to pursue next steps toward recovery and to end 20 years of stalling that has only increased sedimentation in the impoundment and harmed dissolved oxygen levels in Budd Inlet. We recommend DNR engage directly with Squaxin Island Tribe on solutions.

Sewage Management Plan: DNR’s Sewage Management Plan is implemented through its aquatic lease agreements. Very little information is available publicly, and only the broad concepts appear on its web page. We recommend that DNR engage with Department of Ecology to update its plan and communications with leaseholders on the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone, and closely review obligations for leaseholders to ensure most recent information is shared.

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The threats to Washington’s forests, waters, rural communities, and climate are growing every day. We do not have the luxury to wait for progress. Our state must urgently adapt our practices in response to new scientific information, new challenges, and the needs of our communities.

On state trust lands, the CPL’s opportunity to lead are highlighted by public engagement, activism, and the State Supreme Court. Public scrutiny of trust land management is a clear indication that DNR is not delivering what beneficiaries and the public need. With the Supreme Court’s affirmation in CNW v. Franz that DNR is not required to maximize revenue and can manage state lands in “myriad ways” for both revenue and public benefit, the CPL is confronted with a decision: continue status quo management of state lands, or accept the invitation to re-imagine management of state lands for greater ecological and social benefit, such as carbon sequestration, protection of high conservation value forests, and community use. The door is open for Commissioner Franz to build a legacy of innovation on state lands.

We recognize that agency staff are working hard on many fronts, and we appreciate their commitment. We hope this report will prompt renewed attention from the commissioner in the coming year on the significant opportunities or improvement. While the challenges facing our natural resources may at times feel overwhelming, and DNR often needs cooperation from other entities to effect transformational change, it is our role to continue to push for more progress at a faster pace. Our forests, aquatic resources, and people depend upon it.

DNR plays a critical role in determining the future of our state’s resources. From trust land management to land stewardship, wildfire response and preparedness, forest practices, aquatics and more, DNR’s influence on the forests and aquatic lands of Washington State is unparalleled. The implications of DNR’s work do not end at the boundary of a timber sale or a streambank. The agency’s work expands directly to communities across our state. As such, we hold the CPL to a high standard.

This report summarizes progress, identifies gaps, and highlights where we see opportunities for DNR to have a more meaningful impact across the state. Though this report does not cover all aspects of the agency’s work, the topics we evaluated represent core aspects of the agency and CPL’s responsibility as public land managers. For this reason, these topics are WEC and WCV’s priorities.

This year’s evaluation shows that where Commissioner Franz has chosen to lead, she has achieved notable accomplishments: in jumpstarting the agency’s prescribed fire program, expanding technical support for small forest landowners, launching a firstever carbon offset project on Washington’s state lands, passing legislation on derelict vessels and kelp and eelgrass, and making important progress on Trust Land Transfer. We look forward to working with the agency to support outcomes at the pace and scale the state needs.

In future years, we will monitor and report on how these steps forward

translate to impact on the ground and scale up. Will the newly relaunched prescribed fire program return burning to the forested landscape at a meaningful scale? Will DNR select a robust methodology for the agency’s carbon offset project and a credible, evidenced-based process to select acres enrolled? Will the investment in small forest landowner technical assistance provide the support and outcomes small forest landowners need? How will implementation of new kelp and eelgrass and derelict vessels bills scale up important work in aquatics? The proof will be in the follow-through, which Washingtonians rely on for tangible impacts.

However, significant and ongoing challenges remain. DNR has not followed through on core aspects of the agency’s mission related to forest practices, management of older forests on state lands, and forest carbon sequestration. In some cases, such as the Adaptive Management Program and the Olympic Experimental State Forest, we see a consistent pattern of insufficient progress across years. For new topics, like community resilience to wildfire, DNR has an opportunity to build a strong foundation by taking the lead from community-based organizations. For certain elements of the AMP, we see signs of potential progress on the horizon— for example on Stream Temperature and Clean Water Act Assurances. The coming year will prove decisive as to whether DNR can lead the program to important milestones in rulemaking processes for Type Np streams and Water Typing.

We welcome the bold step of announcing a carbon offset project on state lands and hope this project marks the beginning of a new era of creativity and innovation in managing state trust lands— grounded in strong policies and frameworks guiding carbon management on state lands to help this work scale up credibly.

WEC is poised to support the CPL in achieving progress on the issues raised above, because Washington needs a commissioner who will make critical and difficult decisions for people and planet. We hope to work together toward a visionary future that harnesses natural climate solutions to support healthy forests and people. In the year to come, we hope DNR leans into collaboration with the broader community of stakeholders ready to support transformational change. WEC and WCV look forward to working with the Commissioner and her staff to realize this full potential.

WEC is a nonpartisan 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that does not support or oppose any candidates or political parties. We educate the public about the actions their elected officials have taken on environmental issues and we work with elected officials of all party affiliations to protect our environment.

WCV is a 501(c) 4 that ensures Washington’s decision makers keep our environment protected, healthy, and vibrant. Over the last 35 years, we have elected environmental champions, held our elected leaders to the highest standard, and built statewide momentum for environmental campaigns through innovative voter outreach efforts and community organizing.

WEC Staff Contributors

Aida Amirul, Digital Communications Associate

Rein Attemann, Puget Sound Campaign Manager

Rachel Baker, Forest Program Director

Lennon Bronsema, Vice President of Campaigns

Alec Brown, Forests and Fish Project Manager

Katie Fields, Forests and Communities Program Manager

Heather Millar, Content Manager

Darcy Nonemacher, Government Affairs Director

Jody Olney, Tribal Government Liaison

Miguel Pérez-Gibson, State Forest Policy Advisor

Rebecca Ponzio, Climate & Fossil Fuel Program Director

Zachary Pullin, Communications Director

Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound Program Director

58 59


i Forest Health Tracker

ii Wildfire Season 2021 - Work of Wildfire Assessment

iii Washington 2021 State Energy Strategy

iv Leveraging the potential of nature to meet net zero greenhouse gas emissions in Washington State v Washington Forest Ecosystem Carbon Inventory: 2002-2016

vi Conservation Northwest et al v Franz et al

vii WEC and WFLC Forest Carbon Policy Request

viii The Oregon Department of Forestry Climate Change and Carbon Plan

ix Commissioner’s Order on Carbon Sequestration and Storage

x High Conservation Value Approach

xi WA to preserve 10,000 acres of trees to sell as carbon credits to polluters

xii Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy

xiii State Trust Lands Habitat Conservation Plan

xiv Policy for Sustainable Forests

xv Amid climate crisis, a proposal to save Washington state forests for carbon storage, not logging

xvi Effectiveness of Experimental Riparian Buffers on Perennial Non-fish-bearing Streams on Competent Lithologies in Western Washington

xvii Effectiveness of Forest Practices Buffer Prescriptions on Perennial Non-fish-bearing Streams on Marine Sedimentary Lithologies in Western Washington

xviii Landowner Assistance Portal

xix Washington's Small Forest Landowners in 2020

xx Family Forest Ownerships of the United States, 2018: Results from the USDA Forest Service

xxi Solar Mapping Project

xxii Trust Lands Performance Assessment

xxiii Trust Land Performance Initiative

xxiv We must stop fighting over our forests and come together to start fighting for our forests


Under the creative commons 2.0 attribution license (flickr) or Unsplash license.

Eastside Photos (cover, 34); Dave Hoefler (4,14); James Wheeler (6); Alan Levine (8); Kara Karboski (10); Kelley Diwan (12); PT Murphus (16); Zach Lezniewicz (18); Rachel Baker (3,21,26); Sergei A. (22); Stephen Kropp (24); Peter Bahls (28); Andrew S. (30,44); Sarah Ardin (32); Jamie Glasgow (36,40); Selbe Lynn (38); Lauren Owens (42); DNR (46); Brian Walsh (48); Tim Cole (50); Sam Cumming (52); Unknown (54); Devin Anding (56); Tatonomusic (58)

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