Open Space and Designated Forest Land Programs

The Open Space Taxation Act, enacted in 1970, allows property owners to have their open space, farm and agricultural, and timberlands valued at their current use rather than their highest and best use. RCW 84.33 allows land used for the growth and harvest of timber to be valued as Designated Forest Land when certain conditions are met.

Farm and Agricultural Land

For parcels used primarily for commercial agriculture, or related uses described in RCW 84.34. Based on size, certain income requirements must be met.

Designated Forest Land

For parcels used primarily for the growth and harvest of timber, as described in RCW 84.33. The Open Space Timber program no longer exists in Whatcom County, and has been merged with the Designated Forest Land program.

Open Space Land

Persons applying for classification of land as open space designations of open space, or farm conservation shall make such application to the County Planning and Development Services department for review by the county planning commission. Additional information can be found on their webpage located here.

How to Apply

Application Period

Applications may be made for classification at any time during the year from January 1 through December 31. If approved, valuation as Open Space or Designated Forest Land begins on January 1 the year after the application was filed. For example, an application made any time in calendar year 2022 will be processed in 2023 for a change to taxes due in 2024.

Application YearProcessed YearProperty Taxes Changed in Year
202220232024
202320242025
202420252026
202520262027

Application Process

Farm and Agricultural Land classification applications are filed with the assessor and must include the necessary application fee to be considered complete. Supporting income documents (in the form of tax return schedules E or F) are required for parcels under 20.0 acres. Application form can be found here.

Designated Forest Land applications are filed with the assessor and must include the necessary application fee as well as a timber management plan. Application form can be found here.

If approved, the assessor shall record an approval of classification with the county auditor for public recording of the tax lien on real property.

If denied, the owner may appeal the assessor’s denial to the Board of Equalization in the county where the property is located. The appeal must be filed with the board within thirty days after the mailing of the notice of denial.

Application Fees

Program NameApplication Fee
Farm and Agricultural Land$250
Designated Forest Land$250
Open Space LandSee Planning and Development Services website for application fee


Continuances

When land classified as RCW 84.33 or 84.34 is sold or transferred, the property may retain the current classification only if:

  • The seller/grantor is in compliance AND
  • The buyer/grantee wishes to continue

In order to make that determination the following documents are required depending on the program.

Farm and Agricultural Land

  • Notice of Continuance filled out by buyer(s) with full legal description and intended use stated
  • Income Questionnaire for parcels under 20.0 acres showing the required level of income:
    • Parcels 4.99 acres or less must earn $1,500 per year for at least 3 of the last 5 calendar years
    • Parcels between 5.00 and 19.99 acres must earn $200 per acre per year for at least 3 of the last 5 calendar years

Designated Forest Land

  • Notice of Continuance filled out by buyer(s) with full legal description and intended use stated
  • Timber Management Plan for parcels under 20.0 acres
    • Plans must be prepared by a qualified forestry professional

Open Space Land

  • Notice of Continuance filled out by buyer(s) with full legal description and intended use stated
  • If public access is a requirement of the Open Space Taxation Agreement, a Public Access Contact Form is required, and can be found here

Questions?

For any questions please contact us by calling 360-778-5050 or emailing assessor@co.whatcom.wa.us.

Forms and Brochures

Farm and Agricultural Land

Designated Forest Land

Department of Revenue Links