Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates that there are over a million and a quarter acres of forest east of the Cascades that are unhealthy and in danger of succumbing to fire and disease. More than half a century of fire suppression plus record warm and dry years have given us unnaturally thick stands of timber and less moisture to go around. Locally, the reduction in logging and grazing that go along with the transition to rural residentia l have added to the challenge in High Prairie.
There’s a Program For That
DNR’s Cost Share Program works with woodland owners with forest management efforts like thinning, brush removal and slash disposal to create a healthier, more fire resistant forest. You can get free professional help to plan your project and to pay up to half of the cost of work to improve your woods for fire resistance and forest health.
Healthier Woods in 4 Easy Steps –
Develop a plan – If you are an owner of less than 5,000 acres of forest land, the best way to start the process is to call one of DNR’s local foresters (contact info below). Their initial visit will help determine if the Cost Share Program is right for your property. If you decide to proceed, the forester will work with you to develop a plan that meets your objectives and the Cost Share Program’s requirements. That plan will include how to handle underbrush, thinning, pruning, and slash disposal, plus the proposed reimbursement amount of up to 50% of the cost of the work.
Sign a contract – If you decide to move ahead, you’ll sign a standard contract with DNR that sets out the work to be done and the agreed-on reimbursement. You can hire a contractor or you can do the work yourself and be reimbursed based on actual hours at DNR’s schedule for labor and equipment. DNR has a list of contractors who have experience with the program and can help you get references for folks on that list.
Do the work – Cut, pile, chip, burn. Repeat.
Get paid – Once the work is done, you’ll request payment and the DNR forester will visit the site, review the work and, if the work is complete as agreed, sign off on payment. If your contractor is registered with the program, they can be paid directly by DNR or you can pay them.
Five Star Review.
Our property was logged probably sixty or seventy years ago and hadn’t been touched since. As a result it was so brushy and overgrown that a lot of it was impassible. Our experience with the Cost Share program was terrific. The DNR foresters were enthusiastic and helpful and they connected us with good contractors. We got good advice, there was no red tape anywhere along the way and our reimbursement was as agreed. Today, the woods is in better shape to deal with fire or a bug infestation, with lots of good wildlife habitat
Keep These Things in Mind, say HP Experts:
Part of your Firewise strategy – Tom McMackin, our High Prairie liaison with the FireWise program, supports tying in woodland fire resistance with the FireWise approach to keeping your homestead safe. Fire resistant forests make safer communities. Tom is always available to consult about plans for defensible space around home environments – look for his regular FireWise articles in the High Prairian.
Keeping the forest healthy – Lucy Winter is a retired forester and a small forest landowner. Forest health is a critical concern to her and she is using the Cost Share program to improve forest resilience. She says “Our forests are under a lot of stress, from drought and overcrowding, and that usually results in increased disease and insect infestations. Since prescribed burning isn’t practical in our rural residential area, we need other tools. The Cost Share Program lets us do more thinning and brush management than we could do on our own. We’ll have healthier trees that are more resistant to warmer and drier conditions.”
Don’t forget the wildlife – Bill Weiler, a High Prairie neighbor and recognized wildlife habitat expert, worked with the Cost Share program on his family’s property. He urges neighbors to include habitat as a priority in their forest plans and suggests retaining some brush as cover and food sources for wildlife. He also points out that Oregon White Oak is our most valuable wildlife tree – its acorns provide a critical winter food source and its cavities provide nesting opportunities for birds and mammals.
Some Common Questions
Do we have to be Klickitat County Forest Designated Forest Land to qualify? No, the Cost Share Program is available to all non-industrial forest land.
Does DNR require regular maintenance or inspection? No, DNR does not typically come back to the property after the work has been approved for payment, but it is a good idea keep after brush and overcrowding over time.
What about liability? DNR does not assume any liability for the work. They do remind folks to pick a contractor that is licensed and insured and to get proof of insurance as part of your contract for the work.
Is the DNR reimbursement taxable? Always consult a qualified advisor, but in our case, all the DNR reimbursement wasn’t taxable – it went directly to our contractor.
Can I apply right now? Yes – the program has funding and is a priority as part of the state’s effort to improve forest health east of the Cascades. COVID-related issues have slowed down the pace of work in the field, but DNR expects that pace to pick up over the next few months.
Where can I get more information? Go to www.dnr.wa.gov/cost-share, then follow up by contacting Dan Lennon or Greg Houle, our DNR Landowner Assistance foresters. Dan has been involved since 2013 and Greg recently joined him. They know our Klickitat County forests very well and are dedicated to working with landowners to improve the health of our forests.
Our DNR Landowner Assistance Foresters: