FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2011
Commissioner Goldmark initiates Tier Two Forest Health Hazard Warning
Deteriorating forest conditions and widespread damage from insects and diseases may affect up to 2.8 million acres of forest east of the Cascades
OLYMPIA – Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark today announced the first phase of the state’s forest health warning system. Today’s action – made in response to significant deterioration of forest conditions and widespread damage to trees throughout eastern Washington – is the first use of official authorities under the Washington Forest Health Law.
Acting on authority granted by the 2007 Legislature, Goldmark initiated Tier Two Forest Health Hazard Warning, calling for formation of a technical committee of foresters, scientists, and other experts. The committee’s charge will be to advise Goldmark on which areas are under greatest threat, voluntary preventive steps, and future actions, including Forest Health Hazard Warnings or Orders, if conditions do not abate.
In the past several years, Washington has seen a significant deterioration of forest conditions and widespread damage to trees throughout eastern Washington. Projections show significantly elevated tree-kill is likely to occur across 2.8 million acres in eastern Washington over the next 15 years. That’s roughly one third of the entire forest landscape.
The number of acres damaged by forest insects and diseases in Washington over the past decade is 150 percent greater than it was in the 1990s, and 200 percent greater than in the 1980s.
“The trends are alarming and the environmental and economic threats of deteriorating forest health are substantial,” said Commissioner of Public Land Peter Goldmark. “I am therefore taking action under the state’s Forest Health Law to address these threats.”
Exercising his authority under the Tier Two Forest Health Hazard Warning, the Commissioner is convening a group of science and forestry experts to advise him on the severity of the threats, areas of the landscape where corrective actions would be best prioritized, and what kind of actions would be most effectual.
Members of this advisory group will be appointed in late December from among those who have expressed interest. It is anticipated that their recommendations will come in the spring so that timely action can be taken to protect eastern Washington forests.
Forest Health Hazard Warning process – Tier Two
The state’s Forest Health Law was updated in 2007 to address the declining health of forests in eastern Washington. Under the law, DNR developed the Forest Health Hazard Warning process:
- DNR identifies that the insect/disease activity in forests is uncharacteristically severe and likely to affect many landowners.
- The Commissioner of Public Lands convenes a technical committee to review the situation and make recommendations on the threat’s severity and the management options.
- The Commissioner of Public Lands conducts public hearings in affected areas. Committee recommendations and local input help determine what actions are needed, such as forest health treatments and whether a Forest Health Hazard Warning is necessary.
- DNR notifies landowners in the designated ‘warning areas’ and asks them to implement voluntary forest treatments. DNR also provides technical assistance and coordinates the forest treatment projects.
- If monitoring progress under a ‘warning area’ shows that threats have not abated, the technical committee may recommend the Commissioner issue a Forest Health Hazard Order for severe, localized threats to forest conditions. Landowners in those areas who do not take remedial action within designated timeframes are advised of potential liability for firefighting costs should a wildfire occur in untreated areas on their land. (The liability is waived if the forest health problem originated on public lands).
Media Contact: Bryan Flint, Communications and Outreach Director, 360-902-1023, firstname.lastname@example.org
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