Sustainable Management

The Upper Watershed
Working forests and public forestlands

Upper Watershed participants promote sustainable management of working forests that drive our regional economy, while providing ecosystem services and recreation opportunities.

The Forests Community of Interest is working together with landowners, federal, state, and local governments, non-profits, businesses, and citizens to develop a forest ownership model that reflects the values of the community: local jobs, a healthy environment, and access for recreation. This new model, known as a community forest, would continue to be a “working forest,” but only at a level necessary to cover the costs of managing and investing in the property itself.

In the Upper Watershed, there are two core projects designed to achieve long-term land conservation goals that ensure availability of working forestlands:

The Carbon River Forum is a group of like-minded citizens engaged with Mt. Rainier National Park staff, local government, and non-profit organizations to secure the broad engagement of the community. This group works toward facilitating conversations, developing and implementing conservation and trail-development projects, while keeping the communities in the Upper Watershed abreast of local issues. The Forum will serve as the “community” in establishing a Community Forest in the area, assisting in developing a community management plan, identifying properties for acquisition, and advocating for funding to acquire a community forest with key elected officials.

The other main project designed to benefit the Upper and Mid-Watersheds is streamlining of the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) process. In a TDR transaction, landowners are paid the development value of their property and get to retain resource uses such as farming and timber. When development rights are removed from a parcel, a conservation easement is placed on the land, permanently protecting it from residential development. Developers purchasing TDR credits receive development bonuses in areas more suitable for growth. Such bonuses may include additional height, square footage, or more units, than would be allowed under the base zoning.

TDR is a means to provide public benefit through the permanent conservation of forestry and agricultural lands. Unfortunately, certain components of the program have complexities that constrain broad use. PWI partners propose to: expand developer incentives to use TDR, improve the inter-local process for using the TDR program, and simplify the TDR exchange rate formula.

Since the 1980s, about 17% of Western Washington forests have been converted to development or other uses.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Upper watershed map
The Upper Watershed
Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier