Permit for Converting Forest Land to Another Use
About Tree Cutting, Logging, Hazard Tree Removal & Forest Practices & Permits
Forest Practices (logging) in unincorporated Thurston County are regulated by the State Forest Practices Act (Chapter 76.09 RCW), State Rules (Title 222 WAC) and by Thurston County Code Chapter 17.25. Forest practices involve the harvest of merchantable timber.
Forest practices permits are issued in unincorporated Thurston County by either the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or by Thurston County Development Services. The State Forest Practices Act has five types of forest practices classified into four permit classes. (WAC 222-16-050)
Class I activities include Christmas Tree Farms; Logging Road Maintenance and cutting of less than 5,000 board feet of timber for personal use (firewood)
Class II and Class III Forest Practices Permits
Generally, if you are harvesting, replanting and keeping the ground in commercial forest products production, the State Forest Practice Act and Rules apply. (Class I, II, III and IV Special Permits.) The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) administers the Forest Practices Act (RCW 76.09). For more information about obtaining a Forest Practices Permit from DNR, please see DNR's Forest Practices web page.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issues permits for commercial logging operations (non-conversion activities) involving clear cutting or thinning operations. APPLY WITH DNR if logging is "directly associated with and supportive of commercial forest product production."
NOTE: A 6-Year Development Moratorium is placed against any property which has a Class II, III, or IV Special Forest Practices permit issued by DNR unless an approved Conversion Option Harvest Plan (COHP) has first been obtained from Thurston County.
"Development moratorium" means Thurston County shall deny any and all applications for permits or approvals for a period of time established in Chapter 76.09 RCW. This shall include but not be limited to building permits, septic system permits, right-of-way permits, subdivision approvals, or change of zoning relating to the legal description described on the forest practices permit. The moratorium does not apply to expansions, alterations, or maintenance of existing structures or their accessory structures, nor does the moratorium apply to boundary line adjustments done for purposes of conservation of open space or natural areas
Forest practices which were commenced without a Forest Practice permit from either DNR or Thurston County will also include a six-year moratorium on development.
Class IV General Forest Practices Permits
If you plan to harvest the trees and then build a house, use the ground for agriculture or any other development, then the Thurston County Forest Lands Conversion Ordinance will apply. (Class IV General Permit.) Thurston County issues a Forest Practice permit for logging in association with development (conversion) activities.
In unincorporated Thurston County rural areas outside the Urban growth areas, you do not need a forest practice permit if the timber harvest removes less than 5,000 board feet within a year for personal use and not marketable (for example for personal use as firewood).
Within the Urban growth areas of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater, you do not need a forest practice permit if the timber harvest removes less than 5,000 square feet of forest area. This is a one time exemption.
Even if your proposal meets the exemptions described above, no amount of tree cutting within a critical area or buffer is allowed without a Critical Area Review Permit from Thurston County.
The Thurston County Forest Lands Conversion Ordinance, Chapter 17.25 TCC establishes the minimum standards and requirements associated with local government review and jurisdiction over certain timber harvest activities. APPLY WITH THURSTON COUNTY if converting the land for some type of development, such as subdivisions, building a residence, and/or agriculture uses.
Environmental review in accordance with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) is required for all Class IV-General Forest Practices permit applications in the rural areas of the country.
North County Urban Growth Area Conversion Requirements
Any forest lands conversion proposed for any property located within the Urban Growth Areas for the cities of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater, adopted pursuant to RCW 36.70A.110 shall comply with TCC 17.25.400. An application for forest lands conversion shall be accompanied by, and considered concurrently with a development proposal for the affected property.
Conversion Option Harvest Plan (COHP)
A six-year moratorium may be avoided if you prepare and submit a Conversion Option Harvest Plan for approval to Thurston County before submitting an application with DNR.
A Conversion Option Harvest Plan is a voluntary plan developed by the landowner and approved by Thurston County, indicating the limits and types of harvest areas, road locations, and open space. Generally, COHPs are for larger properties over five acres. After it is approved by the county, the applicant submits it to the Department of Natural Resources as part of their forest practice application and if followed by the landowner, it maintains the landowner's option to convert to a use other than commercial forest product production at a later date and releases the landowner from the six-year moratorium on future development.
A Critical Area Review Permit (CARP) is required for removing any trees within a critical area or its buffer. This also includes "Hazard trees" within a critical area or buffer that are within striking distance of a residence or residential accessory structure. Hazard tree permits typically require a Tree Risk Assessment prepared by an arborist or qualified tree professional. Hazard trees are defined in the Thurston County Critical Area Ordinance TCC 24.
A permit is not required to remove trees within a tree length of an existing, permanent structure if all trees are outside of critical areas and buffers.
Note: All tree removal must comply with Thurston County's critical areas and site development regulations. The landowner is responsible for determining if any permits or reviews are required before starting work. Site development or land clearing permits may be required for the proposed tree removal as well as for the removal of understory vegetation or stumps.