The Washington State Legislature recognizes that healthy forest lands are good for the State's citizens and economy. In addition to scenic and recreational spaces, healthy forests provide:
- An enhanced water supply,
- Reduced soil erosion, storm and flood damage,
- Habitat for wild game,
- Employment opportunities, and
- Raw materials for products.
In order to support the development and preservation of forest lands, the legislature created two property tax deferral programs designed to help taxpayers who wish to grow timber for commercial purposes; the Designated Forest Lands program and the Open Space Timber Land program. The Open Space Timber Land program is governed by state statute RCW 84.34 and WAC 458-30. Application to the program is made to the Board of County Councilors who approve or deny those applications. Ongoing maintenance of properties enrolled in this program are managed by the Assessor's Office.
Through participation in the Open Space Timber Land program, Washington State encourages sound forestry practices so that present and future generations can enjoy the many benefits they provide. As a way to encourage commercial forestry in Washington State, landowners may apply to have their land classified as Open Space Timber Land. Property owners that apply and are accepted into the Open Space Timber Land program have their lands valued at their current use rather than at their highest and best use for property tax purposes. This designation often results in a lower assessed value and lower taxes.
Complete applications submitted between January 1st and December 31st are reviewed in the year after they were submitted, typically in a public hearing with the Board of County Councilors. Once the approval is recorded, the assessed value is reduced for the year of the approval and taxes are reduced in the following year. Once an application is approved, the land is subject to a back-tax liability if the use of the land changes after being declared Open Space Timber Land.
To qualify to have your property classified as Open Space Timber Land, you must:
- Have a minimum of 5 contiguous acres in the same ownership, not including any residential home sites,
- Be actively growing timber for commercial harvest, and
- Be compliant with forest practice laws and regulations.
- Complete the Application for Open Space Timber Land
- Pay the application fee for the Open Space Timber Land program ($2032.00)
- Submit a Timber Management Plan prepared by a professional forester including:
- The legal description of all land included in the application (include Assessor's parcel numbers),
- The date or dates of acquisition of the land,
- A statement that the land has the same ownership, consists of contiguous acreage and is primarily devoted and used to grow and harvest timber,
- A brief description of the timber on the land (major species, size, age and condition),
- An inventory of the timber by forest type including the stocking levels and forest health conditions,
- If the timber has been harvested, a description of the owner's plan for reforestation,
- A description of past and present livestock grazing on the land,
- A description of whether the land is in compliance with the stocking requirements, including the number of trees per acre, planned forest management activities (thinning, harvest, brush control), fire protection efforts, insect and disease control, and weed control and forest debris abatement provisions of the Washington Forest Practices Act Title 76 RCW,
- A statement of whether the land is subject to forest fire protection assessments under RCW 76.04.610,
- A description of the ownership goals for the land and an outline of the intended management of the land,
- A description of the types and species of plants and animals, predominant habitats, wetlands, any endangered species, and aesthetic resources present on the land,
- A description and/or drawing showing what areas of land for which designation is sought are used for incidental uses compatible with the definition of forest land in RCW 84.33.035, and
- A statement that the applicant is aware of the potential tax liability involved when the land ceases to be designated as forest land.
Bring your completed and signed application along with copies of the documents listed above and the program application fee to:
Clark County Assessor's Office
1300 Franklin Street
Vancouver, WA 98660
Help in Applying
If you prefer, you may contact us with your questions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can also be reached by phone at (360) 397-2391.
Removal from Open Space Timber Land Classification
Land classified under the program may be removed if:
- The owner submits a written request to withdraw from current use assessment
- The land is sold or transferred to an ownership making it exempt from ad valorem taxation,
- All or a portion of the land is transferred to a new owner and the new owner does not wish to continue the classification; or
- The Assessor determines, after giving the owner written notice and an opportunity to be heard, that the land is no longer primarily used for and devoted to growing and harvesting timber; the owner has failed to comply with a final order with respect to a violation of the provisions of Title 76 RCW; or restocking has not occurred to the extent or within the time specified in the application for designation.
Change in Ownership or Title of Classified Land
When classified land is sold or transferred to new ownership, the new owner(s) must determine if they would like the property to remain in the program and accept the potential tax liability associated with land in the Open Space Timber Land program. In addition, the new owner must:
- Complete the Notice of Continuance Land Classification as Current Use or Forest Land form (all purchasers must sign the form),
- Submit a Timber Management Plan prepared by a professional forester, and
- Sign section 6(3) of the Real Estate Excise Tax Affidavit form (all grantees must sign).
Upon receipt of the required information, the Assessor’s Office will determine if the property is eligible to continue in the classification.
Reclassifying Open Space Timber Lands to Another Classification
If the use of land classified under the program changes, it may be eligible to be reclassified to another Current Use Designation. In order to determine the classification that best suits the new use of the land, please contact our office via email at email@example.com or by phone at (360) 397-2391.