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Shoreline Master Programs

Task 3.4.1: Forest practices in shoreline jurisdiction

Are shoreline permits required for forest practices?

A forest practice consisting of timber cutting only is not considered development under the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) and does not require a shoreline Substantial Development Permit.

Forest practices such as building roads, trails and bridges and placing culverts are considered development under the SMA and are regulated under local Shoreline Master Programs as well as the Forest Practices Act (RCW 76.09). The SMA does not exempt these forest practices from the requirement for a Substantial Development Permit (SDP). If the costs of these activities will exceed the substantial development dollar threshold (currently $6,416), an SDP will be required.

What other shoreline requirements apply to forest practices?

Shoreline Master Program standards, including buffers and setbacks, will apply to forest practices that are considered development, as discussed above. These forest practices are not exempt from local master program standards.

Along shorelines of statewide significance, SMA (RCW 90.58.150) requirements regarding selective timber cutting continue to apply to forest practices. “The department or local government shall allow only selective commercial timber cutting, so that no more than thirty percent of the merchantable trees may be harvested in any ten year period of time.” Enforcing this requirement is up to local governments and Ecology.

The SMA provides for other timber harvesting methods “in those limited instances where the topography, soil conditions or silviculture practices necessary for regeneration render selective logging ecologically detrimental.” Clear cutting timber for land clearing purposes to prepare the land for other uses may be permitted. In this case, the SMA and local SMP may also apply.

Does the Forest Practices Act apply in shoreline jurisdiction?

The SMP Guidelines state that master programs should rely on the Forest Practices Act, its implementing rules and Forest and Fish Reports to manage commercial forests. SMPs also should apply the Guidelines standards to forest practices where forest land is being converted to non-forest uses.

As part of a forest practices application with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), applicants must report if the project is within 200 feet of the ordinary high water mark or floodway of a Type S water and whether it requires an SDP. Required SDPs should be included with the application.

Local governments should review these applications and send a comment to DNR if the applicant has not provided a required SDP or is not complying with conditions of the SDP. DNR would either disapprove the forest practices application or ask the applicant to withdraw the application and resubmit it with the SDP issued by the local government.


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