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Forest Lands in Washington Counties

This page provides an overview of federal forest lands and state forest trust lands in counties within Washington State, along with examples of local forest management plans and resources.

A companion page, County Timber Revenues, provides information on payments received from the federal government for payment in-lieu of taxes and the state's trust land revenue.

Federal Forest Lands in Washington

Washington DNR Trust Lands

The forested state trust lands are managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for specific beneficiaries. The beneficiaries, and some aspects of how the lands are managed, vary according to the origin of the trusts. Most of the forested state trust lands that DNR manages are Federal Grant Lands or State Forest Lands. The Board of Natural Resources sets policies to guide how the DNR manages the state’s lands and resources (see RCW 43.30.205 for procedures for selecting county representatives for the board).

For additional background on Washington Trust Lands, see the DNR resources below:

In addition to the above resources, see this archived document from the DNR website (originally archived by History of State Trust Lands (2007).

Washington's Federal Grant Forest Trust Lands

Upon statehood, the federal government gave Washington three million acres of trust lands. Provisions governing state trust lands appear in article 16 of the state constitution. The state has maintained the trust's three million acres, of which 1.5 million are forest lands.

Below is a brief description of the various trusts; for more information see DNR's page Trust Lands Support Schools and County Services.

  • Common School trust — Supports the construction of public kindergarten through twelfth-grade public schools statewide
  • Agricultural School trust — Supports construction at Washington State University
  • Charitable, Educational, Penal and Reformatory Institutions (CEP&RI) trust — Supports establishment and maintenance of institutions managed by the Washington State Department of Corrections and Department of Social and Health Services
  • University trust — Supports construction at the University of Washington (includes University -original trust lands, which were originally granted by Congress, and University-transfer trust lands, which were transferred by the Legislature from the Charitable, Educational, Penal and Reformatory Institutions trust to provide additional support for the university)
  • Normal School trust — Supports construction at four universities (Western Washington University, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, and The Evergreen State College)
  • Scientific School trust — Supports construction at Washington State University
  • Capitol Building trust — Supports the construction of state office buildings at the Capitol Campus in Olympia.

State Forest Transfer Trust Lands

Twenty-one counties acquired lands through tax foreclosures in the 1920s and 1930s. The properties were transferred to the state for management. The lands ultimately were deeded to the state and placed in trust status. In exchange for the deed transfer, the county and junior taxing districts in which the land is located are given a majority of the revenue from timber sales and other revenue-producing activities on these lands.

A Forest Board was created in 1923 to manage these properties, and was consolidated into the Natural Resources Board in 1957. The Forest Trust Board Counties that contain state forest lands acquired or transferred are represented on the board. In addition to the original state forest transfer lands are the state forest purchase lands. These have been acquired by gift or purchase. In 2006 the state forest transfer trust lands were listed as 546,000 acres and the state forest purchase lands constituted 80,000 acres.

For information on the acquisition, management, and disposition of state forest lands, see Ch. 79.22 RCW.

Below are some additional resources:

Management of Forest Trust Lands

Below are some resources related to forest trust lands management from the Washington Department of Natural Resources:

Examples of Local Government Forest Management

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: March 31, 2023