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Fall 2001, Vol. 2, No. 1

RTI  logo RTI Director’s Notes

By Bruce Lippke

As reported in the previous newsletter, RTI is assisting the Small Forest Landowners Office (SFLO) in developing a database on small forestland owners, as
mandated by the State Legislature. Since there is currently no data standard for county level parcel data or GIS data, it is not yet possible to provide reliable reports to the Legislature on how important 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 provide more informative reports to the Legislature. RTI developed a data processing program for the SFLO to bring county level tax records and GIS information into a common framework for the generation of reports and analyses. The article on page 6 provides some useful statistics using this new database.
Ten case studies on the economic impacts of the Forest and Fish regulations on small, non-industrial owners have now been completed. A brief summary of this study appears on page 2. For more in-depth analysis, please visit our website at The case study
results imply that while the state's Forestry Riparian Easement program seems to effectively mitigate for lost timber revenue; the program is vastly under-funded for anything but low participation rates. Furthermore, it does nothing to mitigate the loss in bare forestland value, which is determined by the return from future timber crops, and is the ultimate motive for maintaining the land as forestland. We are beginning to develop case studies on alternative plans that may provide a better long-term solution for the impacts of the Forest and Fish Rules.
We are also beginning to develop case studies on road plans and their costs. A rough estimate of road costs was developed (see page 4) based on the Small Business Economic Impact Statement, but we expect the variation of needs to be very large.
We also received a grant from the Forest Service to develop a training module on how to lay out dry-site thinning regimes that can lower the fire risk and thereby raise many non-market values such as lower fire fighting costs, fewer losses from fires, better habitat, carbon sequestration, and the value the public places on a lower risk of forest fires. Cooperators include federal forests in Washington and Oregon and the Collins Pine Company, which has interest and
experience in energy production. We expect this project to substantially increase our knowledge on how best to manage dry-site forestland as dependent upon local cost and market conditions.
Based on the success of our first year training programs a number of courses are scheduled for this coming year. Training sessions have been very well received by NIPFs, forestry consultants, tribal foresters, and educators. A schedule of our training offerings is shown on page 8. As an additional enhancement to the capability of our staff, Kevin Zobrist, a graduating masters student in forest economics, will be joining the staff full- time and will be able to intensify his economic impact analysis work. If you are interested in a more detailed report of our activities, a 14 page activity report of our activities through September has just been released. It covers all of the projects we are involved in and we would be happy to provide you an email or hard copy, upon request.

Bruce Lippke, Director
(206) 616-3218

RTI logo

The Small Forest Landowners Database Project

Matthew McLaughlin
RTI Research Associate,
and Luke Rogers
SFLO Database Project Leader

When the Legislature authorized the creation of the Small Forest Land Owner Office (SFLO), it also mandated the creation of a database on non-industrial private forestland (NIPF) ownership that could provide reliable reports assessing ownership patterns such as information on watershed

inflated number of NIPF on the tax records while understating the size of many holdings.
An early conclusion was reached that some of the demands placed on the SFLO database project were impossible to fulfill. Inconsistencies in the data available from the counties and outdated data storage programs and techniques became serious obstacles. Many counties lack GIS data. Nevertheless this newly created database can provide more information on NIPF ownership issues than was previously available and if more attention is placed on the source data by the counties the database reliability will improve.
In an attempt to verify information produced by the SFLO database, comparisons were made with a 1999 statewide survey of Washington and a 2001 survey of Lewis County. The statewide survey combined the
coverage, forest management and housing. In April, an SFLO-NIPF database project was initiated with RTI staff responsible for the development of the database and processing program with the support of the SFLO and consulting organizations.
In phase one, tabular data was collected from thirty-four of Washington's thirty-nine county assessor offices. The database team poured over thousands of records from all over the state in search of the data needed to fulfill the project requirements. Some sources were out of date requiring the hiring of private data technicians to restore parcel data into a usable form. Many sources were lacking pertinent information for tracking regulatory challenges. Multiple naming conventions for the same owner was a common problem resulting in an

results of a survey conducted by the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) of Washington State University with an over-sample survey that was sent to Washington Farm Forestry Association (WFFA) members throughout the state. RTI conducted the Lewis County survey. The statewide survey consisted of 872 completed questionnaires, and the Lewis County survey totaled 455. The SFLO database represents the thousands of NIPF from every forested county in Washington with the exception of Jefferson County that has not yet released their parcel data. Even though the surveys represent only 6 percent of the State's NIPF, they are sufficient to draw useful comparisons.

(SFLO database project continued)

Figure 1 - Illustration of the disparity between the average sizes of Washington NIPF before adjustments were made to compensate for under-representation of NIPF that are less than 15 acres.
The state survey shows the average size of Washington's NIPF to be 115 acres, notably larger than the Lewis County finding of 94 acres, while also larger than the SFLO database's estimate of 84 acres (Figure 1). Smaller owners with less then 15 acres make up 16 percent of the total, which if not adequately represented in a sample would significantly alter the survey's results. To test this, the average NIPF size of forestlands with less than 15 acres was determined from the SFLO database. The result was nearly fifteen points closer to the statewide average at 97.5 acres per NIPF, and perfectly matched that of the Lewis County survey at 94 acres (Figure 2).

Figure 2 - Illustration of a noticeably diminished gap between the average sizes of Washington NIPF after adjustments were made to compensate for under-representation of NIPF that are less than 15 acres.
It is known that half of the survey respondents own forestlands of less than 40 acres and half own forestlands of more than 40 acres (the median is 40 acres). Half of the respondents own plots that are far below the survey average of 115 acres. It is likely that some very large NIPF parcels included in the survey inflated the average forestland size, and that the smaller parcels may not be adequately represented in the results.
The SFLO database has known naming convention problems that overstate the number of owners (providing a good upper bound estimate) and understating the size of their holding (a lower bound).
Other comparisons of interest include the range of NIPF sizes that constitute the bulk of all the non-industrial private forestlands. The Lewis County survey found that NIPF between the sizes of 20 and 100 acres accounted for 50 percent of total compared to 46 percent in the statewide survey and 52 percent in the SFLO database.

(SFLO database project continued)

The functional potential of the program is illustrated by showing the number of NIPF per county, and the number of NIPF per square mile for each county, just two of many measures characterizing NIPF ownership patterns. In spite of the noted deficiencies in the reported data, the SFLO database appears to offer a comprehensive source to provide information on NIPF to the Legislature. The project has also served to highlight the need for a unified standard in data entry and storage while demonstrating the broad scope of possible uses of such a system. The improvements should concentrate on applying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to the many applicable tasks found in county management.
Figure 3 - Washington State Non-Industrial Forestland as a percentage of the counties area. Stevens County in Northeast Washington is 30% NIPF owned, King county is slightly over 2%.
There are currently ten western and four eastern counties that are equipped with GIS technology and utilize it as a powerful tool for spatial analysis as it relates to demographics. The counties with GIS provided the most complete data in a format that was easily transferable to the broader database. As more GIS data becomes available and improvements are made in the consistency of county data collection, the SFLO database will make it possible to track changes across the NIPF ownership, report on the impacts from the regulatory process, and measure its effectiveness.

For more information on the progress of the SFLO database project, please contact Luke Rogers at:

Figure 4 - The number of Non-Industrial Forestland Owners per square mile in Washington State. Stevens County has 1.85 NIPF owners per square mile, King County has 0.25 and San Juan County has the most with 2.25.

Ten Case Studies Examine Economic Impacts of Forests and Fish Rules on NIPF Landowners in Western Washington

Kevin Zobrist
College of Forest Resources
University of Washington

RTI has completed ten case studies in an effort to better understand the economic implications of Washington's new "Forests and Fish" rules on small, non-industrial private forestland (NIPF) owners in Western Washington. The new permanent rules, which went into effect on July 1, restrict timber harvest in a three-zone riparian buffer along any potentially fish-bearing streams. The purpose of the case studies is to examine how bare land values, total forest asset values, and future cash flows1 for small landowners are impacted by the new harvest restrictions.
By comparing case studies, we were able to see the extent to which there is a disparity of impacts between different small landowners. We also compared different riparian management options to see how economic impacts were influenced by these choices. In addition, we assessed the compensation available for each case study under the Forestry Riparian Easement (FRE)2 program to see how effectively the program would mitigate economic losses. The case studies ranged in size from 32 acres to 320 acres. Six of the case studies are located in Lewis County, while the remaining four are in Grays Harbor County.
The results show a wide range and disparity of impacts between landowners in our study. Assuming that no harvesting is done in the riparian zone, decreases in forest value ranged from 25% to as high as 87% (Figure 1). These losses would be reduced considerably, however, by harvesting in the riparian zone to the maximum extent allowed by the rules. The range and disparity of forest value losses would be reduced even further by participating in the FRE program. If the landowners in our case studies harvested in the riparian zone and participated in the FRE program, forest value losses would be reduced to a much narrower range of 0% to 12%.

The results were very similar for the net present value (NPV) of cash flows over the next 50 years (Figure 2). Losses can be extreme if no riparian harvest is done, but they can be reduced substantially by harvesting allowable timber in the riparian zone and participating in the FRE program.

(Ten Case Studies continued)

Bare land values (SEV)3 were particularly sensitive to the new rules, with losses from 23% to as high as 120% using a 5% interest rate (Figure 3). While these losses can also be reduced by managing in the riparian zone, they are not improved by the FRE program. The FRE only compensates for currently standing timber; it does not compensate for the loss in long term timber productivity due to riparian harvest restrictions. Thus the losses in bare land values, as supported by the timber income from future harvests, would still range from 12% to 75% even with maximum harvest in the riparian zone and participation in the FRE program. This has important implications for the decision to reinvest in forestry at the end of the current rotation, and it may motivate increased land-use conversion.

Despite its failure to protect bare land values, the results of the case studies indicate that the FRE program can effectively mitigate economic losses in short-term cash flows and total forest value. This is especially true if maximum harvest is done in the riparian zone. Interestingly, most small landowners who have submitted forest practices applications under the new rules have chosen not to harvest at all in the riparian zone. The reasons for this are unclear; future surveys may help us better understand this trend.

If participation in the FRE program is high, it will likely be very expensive. Estimated easements that would be paid for these ten case studies alone total $2.3 million over the next 45 years, with a present value of almost $1 million. It is uncertain how many small landowners will actually participate in the program. In a recent survey of NIPF owners in Lewis County, 66% of the respondents were unaware of the program, and almost a third of the respondents were not interested in learning more about the program. These sentiments may change as more information about the program becomes available. Even with low participation, though, the total cost of the program statewide could be substantial, and as of yet the adequacy and permanence of the funding has been tentative.
It is important to note that this initial study did not evaluate all potential economic impacts from the new rules, including harvest restrictions on unstable slopes, economically inaccessible areas, and new harvesting equipment requirements. There are also significant potential road impacts on NIPF landowners from the forests and fish rules. A road cost summary has been prepared based on information from the SBEIS (see article in this newsletter), but these figures are not site specific. We plan to review these cost estimates in conjunction with road case studies to examine more site specific road impacts. Additional case studies are underway to broaden the range of site conditions, including several eastside case studies.

1 A 5% interest rate was used for the analysis in this study.
2 The Forestry Riparian Easement (FRE) program offers cash
compensation at the time of harvest to participating landowners for a certain percentage (usually 50%) of the stumpage value of the timber required to be left under the new rules.
3 Bare land value or soil expectation value (SEV) estimates the economic value of bare land based on its ability to generate income through the production of timber.

Riparian area sketch

NIPF Road Upgrade and Stream Crossing Costs under Washington Forest and
Fish Regulations

A summary prepared by: Bruce Lippke and Jane Edelson,
Rural Technology Initiative
College of Forest Resources, University of Washington
June 25, 2001

Information on stream crossing and road maintenance costs were collected for the Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS). The sample on costs was very small. Estimates of costs were collected from forest consultants and operators covering a high cost to low cost range that might be representative of a range of different sites. These were not estimates for actual operations. It would take a substantial effort and additional time to develop and conduct a more comprehensive survey.
While using these cost estimates is subject to a substantial degree of uncertainty, they appear to be the best that are available. Cost estimates for each stream crossing type were provided by DNR, a large company, and several forestry consultants/engineers. These costs were applied to the SBEIS sample of 98 sections for western Washington and 66 sections in eastern Washington. These samples were then scaled up to the total forested acreage in the state based on the USFS Forest Inventory Analysis for state and private lands. The Small Business sample was scaled to the total non-industrial acres in the state and also reduced to the share not affected by the 20-acre exemption. It should be noted that a large percentage of small businesses on the Westside are exempt.

The estimated small business road and stream crossing improvement costs are as shown on the next page.

The SBEIS study assumes a 5.8% discount rate and spreads these costs over 15 years to arrive at a discounted present value for the total cost. There is little doubt that these costs will be front loaded in time, however the actual time pattern of expenditures is very uncertain. If the 15-year period is a reasonable guess, the annual cost rate would be about $25 million per year.
The more critical issue is, can the small owners source the cash flow for these costs? An acceptable road plan must be in place before one can obtain a harvest permit resulting in a large cost obligation before revenue would be available from harvesting. The acceleration of some harvests to provide some of the cash for road and stream crossing cash needs can be expected, as this is one of the few available sources of funds for small owners.

Conferences and Symposia

Small Diameter Timber: Resource
Management, Manufacturing,
and Markets

February 25 - 27, 2002
West Coast Grand Hotel at the Park
Spokane, Washington
9th Annual
NIPF Forester's Workshop

Friday, January 26, 2002
8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Coeur d'Alene Inn
Coeur d'Alene, ID

Managing densely stocked stands of small diameter trees is a complex challenge.
Collaboration of land managers and researchers is essential to increasing the knowledge of how management activities can be used to enhance forest health and ecosystem integrity as well as meet diverse societal needs.
The objective of this symposium is to draw attention to the national significance of the small diameter timber resource through new developments in management, harvesting systems, manufacturing products using small-log processing and wood drying practices, and market issues for wood products made from small trees.
This conference presents results of completed and ongoing activities related to management and utilization of densely stocked stands of small diameter trees.

For more information contact:
Program: David Baumgartner 509-335-2964
Registration: Ann Brelsford 509-335-2811

Symposium Sponsors:

Rural Technology Initiative

Creating Opportunities (CROP) Consortium
Pacific Northwest Station, U.S. Forest Service
Colville National Forest

Washington State University

Inland Northwest Forest Products Research

Inland Empire Society of American Foresters

Symposium website:

Non-Industrial Private Forest (NIPF) lands are vital to the economy and quality of life in the Inland Northwest. These lands are increasingly valued for wildlife habitat, timber production, scenic quality, and many other purposes.
Unique skills are required of individuals who help NIPF land owners manage their property. This program is designed to:

  • Strengthen the skills of consulting foresters, stateemployed service foresters, and other natural resource professionals who work with NIPF owners.
  • Serve as a forum to provide updates on emerging technology and knowledge applicable to non-industrial private forestry.
If you have questions on the program contact:
Chris Schnepf, Area Extension Educator - Forestry

University of Idaho, Coeur d'Alene.
Phone: (208) 667-6426. E-mail:

Peter Griessmann, Area Extension Agent - Forestry

Washington State University, Colville.
Phone: (509) 684-2588. E-mail:

Logger drawing

Training and
Continuing Education

Training opportunities

For more information please contact:
UW College of Forest Resources: 206-543-0867


Forestry Images Library Available

RTI receives frequent requests for forest related images. A web-based internet library is now available on the RTI web page, providing copyrightfree forest ecology and natural resource management images that can be downloaded at no charge.
Access the image archive from the RTI web site at and follow the image archive link on the project page. By image sharing, we hope to expand this resource to eliminate the problem of obtaining images.
RTI staff will be happy to receive either digital or hard copy images by upload, email, or snail mail. A one sentence descriptor is required for each image for search functions and recording image origins.

Tree sketch


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
The Rural Technology Home Page is provided by the College of Forest Resources. For more information, please contact the Rural Technology Initiative, University of Washington Box 352100 Seattle, WA 98195, (206) 543-0827. © 2000-2004, University of Washington, Rural Technology Initiative, including all photographs and images unless otherwise noted. To view the privacy policy, click here.
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