What do Washington State’s Voters Believe About Managed Forests?


The Washington Forest Protection Association (WFPA), formed in 1908, has united forest landowners to address evolving forestry challenges. Initially focused on wildfire risk and reforestation, today’s concerns include changing public values, population growth, and urban-rural divides affecting forest management policies. Amidst discussions on forests as climate change solutions, there remains loud opposition to tree cutting, but recent public opinion polling shows a different side of understanding and beliefs about managed forests, wood products, and climate change. The aim is to understand voters’ beliefs about carbon and managed forests to encourage more informed perspectives on sustainable forest practices.

Effective communication begins by identifying shared values and creating a relatable starting point. Right now, during these hot summer months, wildfire and smoke are among the top concerns when it comes to our forests.

We conducted polling in June 2023, and define managed forests as:

“Managed forests refer to practices used by the forest products industry of sustainably harvesting forest lands for wood products and to keep forests healthy, including replanting at least three trees for every one harvested, thinning dead and dying trees, and removal of underbrush.”

Result: 89% of the voters agree with this definition, and after hearing this, “trust in the industry to do the right thing” increased from a net 15% to a net 31%.

Then we informed voters how managed forests address their concerns:

“Studies show that managed forests are healthier and less likely to burn than unmanaged forests. Sustainable forest management practices by the forest products industry prevent catastrophic wildfires by keeping forests healthy and removing damaged trees and excess underbrush that spread fires.”

Result: 85% are more likely to support “managing our forest lands.”

When we connect the dots about why managed forests provide more climate benefits than unmanaged forests, support for managing our forest lands increases:

“Science shows that managed forests provide a greater climate benefit than unmanaged forests because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere nearly twice as fast per acre than unmanaged forests. In fact, Washington’s managed forests and wood products offset our state’s carbon footprint by 35%. This can be an important tool in fighting climate change.”

Result: 79% are more likely to support “managing our forest lands.”

Finally, we conclude that managed forests are an important part of fighting climate change.

“Unmanaged forests allow drier conditions, disease, and insects to weaken trees, contributing to catastrophic wildfires. These wildfires not only devastate our forests and cause severe air quality problems, but they also contribute to climate change by releasing hundreds of tons of stored carbon into the atmosphere. Actively managing our forests through sustainable harvesting is an important part of fighting climate change.”

Result: 79% are more likely to support “managing our forest lands.”

Overall Results: After hearing the messaging sequence of Define-Inform-Connect-Conclude:

The belief that “using wood products helps combat climate change” increased by a net +33 points, up to 68% agree.

The belief that “managing forest lands, including sustainable harvesting reduces carbon emissions by capturing carbon in healthy trees” increased net +16 points up to 72% agree.

Overall, the WFPA’s efforts, informed by polling results, seek to dispel myths and provide accurate information about managed forests, wood products, and their role in climate change mitigation.

For more information, please CLICK HERE.