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Spring 2001, Vol. 1, No. 2

RTI logo

Surveys of NIPFs Show Changes in Activity

By Kernen Lien,
WSU Cooperative
Extension, Lewis County

Keeping NIPF lands in forestland uses is imperative for both a healthy environment and healthy rural communities. Three recent surveys, the 1997 survey of Washington Farm Forestry Association (WFFA) members' harvest activities, the 1999 survey conducted by Washington State University on Washington's forestland owners, and the 2001 needs assessment survey of Lewis County NIPFs conducted by RTI, help to characterize NIPFs concerns and changing activities.
All three surveys had similar responses for the size of ownership. As would be expected most of the NIPFs own smaller tracts of land. The Lewis County survey found that 50% of the respondents owned between 20 and 100 acres. Forty-six percent of the WFFA survey respondents fit into the same category. The Lewis County mean ownership size was 94 acres. The statewide survey conducted by WSU showed a slightly larger mean ownership at 115 acres.

Management Objectives:

The Lewis County survey asked landowners to indicate their level of importance for several possible management objectives (Figure 1). Of the top five responses (Privacy, Satisfaction of Owning Land, Timber Revenue, Legacy for Heirs and Aesthetics) only timber revenue is a primary economic objective. This indicates that NIPFs consider much more than economics when making management decisions. The two lowest responses, Development and Hunting Leases, suggest landowners are generally not motivated to convert their forestlands for development or to obtain revenue from other peoples’ use of their land.

Note: Scale runs from Very Unimportant (1.00) to Very Important
(7.00) with 4.00 being Indifferent.

Although Lewis County NIPFs consider more than economics when making management decisions, when asked to rank management objectives as first, second and third most important (Figure 2), Timber Revenue turns out to be the most important factor and Investment is the third most important. Privacy still ranks high as the second most important objective.


Note: Scale 1.00 is least important to 3.00 being most important.

Training Needs:

The Lewis County survey also inquired about how landowners viewed the importance of technical training in regards to the management of their land. When asked to indicate the level of importance of a specific training topic (Figure 3), only three categories ranked above indifferent: Taxes and Estate planning, Regulatory Interpretation, and Flexibility for Riparian Protection. Categories dealing with technology were not considered important (a mean response less than 4.00). However, when asked if theywanted more information on training opportunities offered by RTI, 61% of the respondents indicated they wanted more information. Of those wanting more information, 81% preferred to receive the information via mail as opposed to a public web posting or email. The WSU survey found that 58.1% of their respondents used a personal computer at home. These figures might indicate that while owners have access to technology, the use and application of the technology is limited. This may explain the apparent lack of interest in technology training. Many of the training opportunities that were viewed as unimportant provide powerful tools that can be used in categories that were viewed as important. The technology may not be viewed as a means to an end. Another reason for the apparent lack of interest in technology may be that landowners rely on consultants for technical issues and many of the written comments indicated such. In a recent survey of consultant needs conducted by RTI, responses to the importance of technical training were much higher, with 74% of the respondents indicating that technology training was important or very important (Figure 3).

Note: Scale runs from Very Unimportant (1.00) to Very
Important (7.00) with 4.00 being Indifferent.

Harvest Activities:
The WFFA survey focused on harvest activities of its members over a 10-year period (1988-1997). Figure 4 shows the percent of acres owned that were harvested.The levels of harvest indicated by Figure 4 suggest that WFFA members are either harvesting on longer than economic rotations or not harvesting a substantial number of acres in their ownership. This should come as no surprise since, as shown in Figure 1, NIPFs consider a number of variables important when making their management decisions - not just economics. Figure 4 also suggests that the small landowner is just as likely to harvest as the larger landowner since the percent harvested does not increase with ownership size.
Another variable entering into the decision of whether or not to harvest in recent years has been regulatory uncertainty. Thirty-seven percent of the respondents to the Lewis County survey indicated they had some sort of regulatory constraint on their property, while 29% were unsure. The WFFA survey showed that the acres harvested each year have been on the rise (Figure 5). The WFFA survey also showed that these increases in harvest acres did not follow charges in stumpage prices, indicating that other factors must be responsible. The WSU survey asked if the landowners had harvested earlier than planned due to changing regulations, 20% responded yes.

While the total acres harvested are increasing, the type of harvest is also changing. Figures 6 and 7 show the acres clearcut and thinned as a percent of the total harvest acres, as reported in the WFFA survey. While there has been almost no clearcutting in the east, the percent of harvest acres that are being clearcut in the west is declining, while the percent being thinned is increasing.

Much of the change appears to be related to management near streams. Figure 8 shows the total acres harvested near streams has been on the rise, while Figures 9 and 10 mirror the trend for overall harvest activity with the percent of acres clearcut declining and the percent of acres being thinned increasing.

While the overall acres being harvested are on the rise, the size of the harvest tracks has remained relatively stable. The harvest unit for the westside is typically 20 acres for both clearcuts and thinnings (Figures 11 and 12). The eastside harvest unit for thinnings has remained relatively stable at 82 acres and there are too few clearcuts for a reliable estimate.
The Lewis County survey inquired about new programs that could ease the regulatory burden placed on NIPFs; such as the DNR’s Small Forest Landowners Forest Riparian Easement program (FRE) which compensates landowners for 50% of the value of those trees left unharvested because of the new Forests and Fish Regulation, and the Family Forests Conservation Project which seeks to provide a programmatic Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) offering regulatory stability by providing a long term, scientifically defendable management plan. The awareness of both programs was quite low with 65% being unaware of the Forest Riparian Easement program and 71% being unaware of the Family Forest Conservation Project. However, as shown in Figure 13, landowners are quite interested in both programs. Figure 13 shows that 60% of the respondents are willing to try these programs to ease their regulatory burden with another 20% interested in the programmatic Habitat Conservation Plan.
Small forest landowners are a vital and important part of rural communities. The surveys have shown that although timber revenue is an important factor in management decisions, non-revenue factors such as privacy, aesthetics, and habitat are also very important in decision-making. New regulatory constraints are making it increasingly difficult for the small forest landowner to operate, and although landowners would prefer to let the consultants tackle new technologies in forestry, they are quite interested in how programs such as the FREs and HCPs may ease some of their burden. In trying to adapt to the changing regulatory environment, landowners are adjusting the way they go about managing their land. While harvest unit size is stable, the activity is changing, with thinnings increasing and clearcuts decreasing, particularly along streams.


RTI’s objective is to use better technology to manage forests in rural areas for increased product and environmental values in support of local communities.


RTI Director’s Notes
By Bruce Lippke

We continue to work on the priorities set by our Rural Advisory Board including some changes in emphasis in this, our second year.
Our case studies on the impact of the Forest and Fish regulations on small nonindustrial owners continue to receive attention (the feature article in the last newsletter). The disparity in impacts demonstrated by our case studies is being acknowledged. Under the state’s Forest Riparian Easement program, the cost of timber cruises will be paid for by the state. Also, the threshold in revenue loss above which 100% compensation will be provided to small owners has been reduced to 19%on the westside, a favorable interpretation of the Small Business Economic Impact Study findings. There would also appear to be a broader recognition that alternative plans need to be allowed to address the many situations where uniform regulations do not reflect the best practices to reach desired future condition objectives. Nevertheless, the complexities of management alternatives under the rules are immense and we are expanding the list of case studies to cover a wider range of regional situations.
We have completed the evaluation of a needs survey covering forestry consultants and a pilot study in Lewis County covering non-industrial private forest landowners. The findings from these surveys are the topic of our feature article begnning on page 1. These surveys show that there is a desire for better technology by landowners if it can assist in regulatory relief and that forestry consultants believe that advances in technology will enable them to better serve their customers.
A 1998 harvest activity survey of WFFA members that we recently analyzed also shows that their management practices appear to be very sustainable with harvest levels less than 1.5% of the total acreage each year from 1998 to 1997. They have increased thinning activities while decreasing clearcuts near streams. All are measures of good stewardship and these trends seem consistent regardless of the size of the tree farm.

We have completed a number of training programs featuring the Landscape Management System (LMS), a versatile forest inventory and planning software developed under Professor Chad Oliver, College of Forest Resources, UW, that can simulate and provide visualizations of future forest conditions; LMS is the only software of its type available to the public by web download or compact disk at no charge. We have also expanded the training coverage to include Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). These tools provide foresters with useful electronic mapping capabilities. Training sessions have been very well received by NIPFs, forestry consultants, and tribal foresters. A schedule of our training offerings is shown on page 5.
We continue to make progress on developing habitat suitability models linked to stand conditions resulting from management changes. We expect these models to be very important in the development of a variety of adaptive management plans including small owner habitat conservation plans and other alternative plans that are anticipated under the Forest and Fish rules, and tribal resource plans.
A substantial new effort has been launched to assist the Small Forest Landowners Office (SFLO) in developing a database on small forestland owners that was mandated by the Legislature. There is no data standard for county level parcel data or GIS data. As a consequence it is not currently possible to provide reliable reports to the Legislature on either how important the non-industrial lands are to the state, or how they are being impacted by regulations. In order for the SFLO to represent small owner interests it must be able to provide more informative reports to the Legislature.
Perhaps of greatest importance is the increasing caliber of faculty, staff and student support we are able to put on case studies and other projects. At the College of Forest Resources UW, Luke Rogers, Kevin Ceder, and Jim McCarter are the latest staff members on the team. Luke is finishing his Masters degree in Forest Engineering with expertise in GIS systems. Kevin Ceder is about to receive his Masters degree in Silviculture and has been a pioneer in our habitat modeling.
Jim McCarter is completing his Ph.D. in Silviculture and has been the lead developer and trainer for the Landscape Management System. Their presentations at the WFFA annual meeting, SAF meetings, training classes and other events have produced very positive feedback. They have been assisted by Kevin Zobrist, a Masters student in Forest Economics providing economic impact analysis, and Jason Cross, a Masters student in Silviculture providing math models characterizing the impacts of management alternatives on instream functionality.
In the Natural Resource Sciences Department at WSU, new projects are developing under the guidance of nine resident and extension faculty and their students and assistants. John Bassman is working on eastside forest carbon sequestration which will allow us to extend other work underway for the westside; Matt Carroll and Keith Blatner are addressing community and landowners concerns on fire; and Peter Griessmann is working with private consultants and others on our eastside riparian impact case studies. Barry Moore, a limnologist, is studying the effectiveness of riparian buffers. A standardization technology analyzer is under development by wildlife nutrition experts Morris Silber and Bruce Davitt. Tom Brannon, Dave Baumgartner, and Jim Freed continue to work on road publications. And Kernen Lien, working with Steve Webster continues his riparian and HCP projects in Lewis County.
While there is much more that needs to be done, we have developed a very capable support base and are interested in your feedback on the newsletter, our training programs and presentations, or issues that need to be addressed. If you are interested in a more detailed report of our activities, please contact us.

Bruce Lippke, Director
(206) 616-3218



Many Benefit from RTI Technology

An important priority for the Rural Technology Initiative
is the development and transfer of affordable forestry
technology. When RTI surveyed 106 Washington Forest
Consultants in the spring of 2000, 80% responded
that… technology training represents an “important
to very important” opportunity for their business to
be successful in delivering services to their customers.

Courses can be customized to tribal and other group
needs and some scholarships may be arranged. A
calendar of training opportunities is posted on the RTI
web site at Brochures advertising
training opportunities are mailed out to foresters and
tree farmers across the state. The Society of American
Foresters certifies all RTI training.

In March Frank Shirley, tree farmer, wrote to us,
I woke up the day after the ArcView course finished all pumped up and ready to go. It was a good feeling that I don’t often have after attending short courses.

The following is the schedule for future short courses:

September 2001– Geographical Positioning Systems,

October 2001 – Intro to ArcView, Port Hadlock.

October 2001 – Landscape Management System,

November 2001 – Advanced GIS for Resource
Managers, Eatonville.

November 2001 – LMS, location to be announced.

For more information contact Larry Mason at 206-
543-5772 or by email at

State Offers Program to Assist Small
Forest Landowners


Under a new program offered by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, small forest landowners may now receive partial compensation for the trees they must leave along streams and rivers in order to protect water resources. Acknowledged as a first of its kind in the country, the Forestry Riparian Easement Program provides monetary compensation to small landowners who are disproportionately affected by new forest practice rules. According to the state Legislature’s Salmon Recovery Act of 1999, forestland owners must provide long-term, protective habitat for salmon and more than a dozen at-risk fish species that are impacted by logging, road building, and other regulated forest practices across nearly all Washington counties.

The rules authorize the Department of Natural Resources to purchase 50-year easements from qualifying landowners to protect harvestable timber near fish-bearing streams and other aquatic areas. To administer the program, the Small Forest Landowner Office has been established within the Forest Practices Division of the Department of Natural Resources. The Office serves as a focal point for small forest landowner concerns and issues. By actively engaging the public, the Small Forest Landowner Office is working to create and promote incentives to help small landowners keep their land in forestry use, and continue their contributions to public values.

For more information on the Forestry Riparian Easement Program and other assistance provided by the Small Forest Landowner Office, please call the Office at: (360) 902-1389, e-mail at:, or visit their website at: dnr/sflo.

Readers may send comments to:

Bruce Lippke, Director RTI
CFR, University of Washington
Box 352100
Seattle, WA 98195-2100
Phone: 206-616-3218


Janean Creighton, Editor RTI News
Department of Natural Resource Sciences
Washington State University
PO Box 646410
Pullman, WA 99164-6410
Phone: 509-335-2877

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
USDA Forest Service State & Private Forestry
WSU Cooperative Extension
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Last Updated 10/13/2022 12:22:33 PM