PORTLAND, Ore. June
10, 2013. A recent government report reveals that the number of
houses in dispersed rural settings in western Washington has doubled
over the past 30 years, and that 20 percent of nonfederal land
is currently developed.
“Resource lands in Washington are being lost at a rate of
a football field every 18 minutes,” says Andy Gray, a research
ecologist at the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest (PNW)
Research Station. “People are concerned about losing capacity
to grow local food crops and wood products, and about how patterns
of development are impacting water quality, wildfire risk, and
Gray is the lead author of a recent report, Changes in Land Use
and Housing on Resource Lands in Washington State, 1976-2006. The
study covers information on all 39 counties in Washington. The
analysis is grouped into five areas: Puget Sound, Olympic Peninsula,
southwest Washington west of the crest of the Cascade Mountains,
and Central and Inland Empire east of the crest of the Cascade
Key findings from the report include:
•The loss of 4.7 percent of nonfederal forestland in Washington
over 30 years to development could represent a significant impact
on resource availability, including timber production as well as
•Conversion of nonfederal resource lands (forestry, range,
and agricultural) to low-density residential and urban lands was
lower in 1994-2006 than between 1976-1994, despite similar increases
•Most new development was close to existing development,
but more so in western than eastern Washington.
•Increases in housing in and around resource lands were
similar in eastern and western Washington, which could affect acceptance
of industrial practices near residential areas, introduction of
pets and invasive species, and wildfire ignitions.
•Providing comprehensive, consistent, information on the
type and location of land-use changes in Washington, enables the
assessment of desirable and undesirable impacts and provides a
foundation for future assessments.
Coauthors of the report, compiled by members of the Station’s
Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program, include Dave Azuma,
Gary Lettman, Joel Thompson, and Neil Mckay. Partners are the USDA
Forest Service’s Forest Health Monitoring Program and the
Oregon Department of Forestry.
The study began in 2009 and was completed in 2012. To read the
full report, visit http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/42975.
The Pacific Northwest Research Station—headquartered in Portland,
Oregon—generates and communicates scientific knowledge
that helps people make informed choices about natural resources
the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers
located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 390 employees.