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Open Space Tax Program

What is the Open Space Tax Program?

open fieldThe Washington State Legislature adopted the Open Space Tax Act in 1970 to ". . . maintain, preserve, conserve, and otherwise continue in existence adequate open space lands for the production of food, fiber, and forest crops, and to assure the use and enjoyment of natural resources and scenic beauty for the economic and social well-being of the state and its citizens." The Legislature recognized that the market value of land used for farming, timber production or open space uses is often much lower than its market value for other "higher" uses, like residences or businesses. Since property taxes must be based on the "highest and best" use under state law, owners of farmland or open space often have difficulty continuing their "natural resource" uses while paying "higher" use taxes. Land-owners often find that they have to convert their land to the "higher" uses. This reduces the overall supply of farmlands, forest lands and open space. In order to address that problem, the Legislature provided a way for County Assessors to base property tax assessments on the "current use value" of lands used for natural resource production or protection. Property owners who voluntarily commit to continuing these uses may apply for current use classification in the Open Space Tax Program and have their property assessments based on "current use values," resulting in lower property taxes.

2018 Open Space Tax Program Application

There is one application currently under review, from the Lakemoor Community Club. The Board of County Commissioners will hold its public hearing on the application on September 18, 2018.

Click here for details on the public hearing.

Click here to view the application and a staff report to the Board of County Commissioners regarding this application.

Click here, here, and here to view public comments received for this application to date.

Open Space Rule Change

Click here for the RESOLUTION amending the Thurston County Open Space Tax Program sections I, III, and IV with changes to the minimum area that must be excluded for home sites and other ineligible uses, and other minor changes. See below for the complete version of the Thurston County Open Space Tax Program Rules.

Click here for the County’s complete Open Space Tax Program policy document.

Open Space Application Fee

The fee for an open space application in 2016 is $1,416.

The Public Process

Open Space classification affects all property owners because the taxes that are reduced for some are shifted to other taxpayers. Or, if a taxing district's statutory rate limits have been reached, the district receives less tax revenue, and may reduce public services or facilities. Because of these and other potential effects of general public interest, applications for classification as open space are subject to a public process that includes public hearings. Besides being a tax-related decision, the approval of an application for current use classification is also a land use decision. If the County grants the special privilege of reduced taxes for a specific land use, then it needs to be sure that the land use is appropriate for its location, and will not result in conflicts with neighbors.


Provides Information & Accepts Applications

Reviews Applications

Makes a Recommendation to the Board of Commissioners

Makes Final Decision

Development Services

Timber Land
Open Space

Timber Land
Open Space

Timber Land


Assessor's Office



(Not Applicable)

Agricultural Land

Planning Commission



Open Space


Board of County Commissioners




Timber Land
Open Space

For more detailed information on all current use programs, check-out the Assessor's Office Current Use Matrix.

Sign Me Up!

man with outstretched armsThurston County classifies lands for current use assessment as outlined in its Open Space Tax Program Rules. This program sets out eligibility criteria and application requirements. There are three types of current use classification: timber land classification, agricultural land classification, and open space classification (for lands left in their natural state). Each classification type has its own eligibility criteria. The idea of reduced taxes is an ever-popular one and the County's Open Space Tax Program limits eligibility to only those properties which have the best qualities for achieving the goals of the program. For more information about eligibility, see the Eligibility Criteria Checklists or contact Andrew Deffobis, Associate Planner. Phone: (360) 754-3355, x5467 E-mail: deffoba@co.thurston.wa.us. (For information about agricultural land and designated forest classification, click here or contact the Thurston County Assessor's Office at 360-786-5410).

red arrow Apply for Open Space Classification

red arrow Apply for Timber Land Application

red arrow Apply for Agricultural Land Application (Assessor's Office)

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