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Winter 2001, Vol. 1, No.1

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Case studies examining the economic impact of the "Forests and Fish" rules on NIPF Landowners
By Kevin Zobrist, UW-CFR
Graduate Student

In response to the listing of salmon under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a caucus of federal and state agencies, industry, non-industrial private landowners, and Native American tribes developed a new Forests and Fish Agreement. New forest practice rules affecting riparian zones have been developed from this agreement to meet the requirements of the ESA and Clean Water Act. The rules for Western Washington established riparian buffer for fish-bearing streams that extends to approximately 170 feet (depending on the site) on either side of the stream. The buffer is divided into 3 zones as follows:

  1. Core Zone: No harvesting allowed.
  2. Inner Zone: Partial harvest is allowed under two options if minimum basal area requirements to meet Desired Future Condition (DFC) are met.
          Option 1: Thin From Below
          Option 2: Leave trees closes to the stream ("whack and pack")
  3. Outer Zone: Harvest is allowed, but 20 trees per acre of 12" in diameter must be retained.
The purpose of this study is to examine the economic impacts of these riparian buffers on small, non-industrial private forest (NIPF) landowners, and specifically to examine the extent and disparity of these impacts. The SBEIS (Small Business Economic Impact Statement) has already looked at the average impacts on NIPF landowners, but this only tells part of the story. With these case studies, we are able to gain a more detailed perspective on how small landowners are impacted, where they are falling in relation to this average, and what sort of disparity is created. It is important to go beyond statistical averages and look in depth at how actual landowners are impacted by the new rules, what factors drive those impacts, and what can be done to mitigate those impacts. Several NIPF landowners in Lewis County, WA have volunteered their property for use in this study.

For each case study, management of the property is simulated using GIS and computer growth models for five different scenarios:

  1. Baseline scenario - management under the previous forest practice regulations
  2. Forests/Fish rules with no harvest in the riparian zone
  3. Forests/Fish rules with harvest included in the outer zone
  4. Forests/Fish rules with harvest in the outer zone and partial removal in the inner zone under option 1
  5. Forests/Fish rules with harvest in the outer zone and partial removal in the inner zone under option 2
An economic analysis is done to compute the estimated timber value, bare land value, and total forest value for each scenario. The results of the Forests and Fish scenarios can then be compared to the baseline scenario to examine the incremental impact of the new requirements. It is hoped that from these case studies best strategies for small landowners will emerge. Three case studies have been completed so far.
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