We have a forest health crisis in our state. And because of our forest health crisis, we are seeing more catastrophic wildfires. Hot, dry conditions coupled with diseased and dying forests are leading to explosive wildfires, which threaten our communities and fill our summer skies with smoke.
In central and eastern Washington alone, we have 2.7 million acres of unhealthy forest. That’s why, under the leadership of Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, more than 33 organizations and agencies came together in 2017 to address the crisis with a 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan. This plan, grounded in science, sets a bold goal of restoring 1.25 million acres of forest to healthy conditions, increasing fire resilience and better protecting our communities. This ambitious scale of forest restoration is unprecedented in our state.
As of Oct. 31, 2021, DNR and our partners have completed forest health treatments on 363,143 acres across central and eastern Washington. We launched the Forest Health Treatment Tracker in 2021 to map the planned, completed and in-progress forest health treatments across Washington. The tool is interactive and illustrates the scale at which treatments are taking place across landscapes, land ownerships and ecosystems. The treatment tracker will be updated on a regular basis as new information is reported by landowners and land managers.
By actively managing our forests – using strategies such as prescribed burns and thinning – we can restore forests to a more natural and resilient condition. We can bring our forests back to health, boost jobs in rural Washington, and reduce the threat of wildfires.
The Department of Natural Resources is evaluating and prioritizing the restoration needs of our forests in central and eastern Washington and developing strategies to make them more resilient to wildfires, diseases, insect infestation, and the effects of climate change. Explore the interactive map below to learn more about DNR’s high-priority areas by clicking on them. Another layer on the map shows the level of wildfire risk in each forested watershed. Turn layers on and off using the “map layers” button in the upper right corner, and choose the “legend” button, also in the upper right corner, to see the legend for each layer. Click on the arrow at the bottom of the map to see the data.
All Lands, All Hands
It took a century to get where we are today with our forest health crisis, and it will take decades of dedicated support and partnership to reverse the situation. From federal agencies to people who own just a few acres of wooded property, meeting the goals of the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan will take an “all lands, all hands” approach, meaning everyone pitching in.
To help increase the pace and scale of forest health treatments, Commissioner Franz has signed Shared Stewardship and Good Neighbor Authority agreements with the federal government, allowing the state to assist with treatments on federal land.
To help small, private landowners in Central and Eastern Washington, DNR offers a cost-share program that property owners may be eligible to receive. Interested landowners can request a free consultation from a forester to learn more about their forest and their wildfire risk.
Through cooperation and the sharing of experience and expertise, we can achieve a future where our forests are safer and more productive.
Priority Planning Areas
The 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan is grounded in the scientific evaluation of Washington’s forests and information about other assets threatened by wildfire, such as homes, infrastructure, and wildlife habitat. Landscape evaluations have been conducted for priority planning areas across eastern Washington. The data and information used to inform this plan are available to the public and accessible at the following links:
Visit https://bit.ly/ForestHealthData to view and download:
- Key information for each planning area, including landscape evaluation summaries, presentation slides, and datasets.
- Maps and spatial data covering eastern Washington.
- Data documentation and methods.
- Reports and documents related to each planning area and the 20-year plan.
Click here for a user guide summarizing the available information, data, and reports.
Building Partnerships Competitive Grant Program
The Washington Department of Natural Resources solicits applications from forest collaboratives through our Building Partnerships Competitive Grant program (formerly known as the Forest Collaborative Infrastructure Pilot). The purpose of this grant program is to provide funding for forest collaboratives to continue to develop an organizational infrastructure that allows them to effectively address forest health issues, deliver on our shared forest health strategic plan goals, and contribute to the improvement of forest health across the state.
While this grant is funding planning and organizational development, proposed activities must directly support increasing the pace and scale of forest health projects in priority landscapes as defined in the 2020 Forest Action Plan and priority planning areas defined in the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington. Funding for this program is provided by House Bill 1168.
Wood Energy and Biomass Utilization
One of DNR’s goals under the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan is to incentivize forest health treatments, such as removing the smaller trees overcrowding a forest, by increasing the demand for that small-diameter timber, as well as forest biomass.
Forest Biomass refers to by-products of forest management activities or forest health treatments prescribed under the state’s forest health law. Using forest biomass has a number of benefits. Removing timber by-products from the forest helps reduce the risk of forest fires, carbon emissions that result from forest fires, and the loss of forest resources to pests and diseases. And using forest biomass to create pellets for wood stoves can reduce energy costs for consumers.
Washington’s forests have an abundant renewable supply of woody biomass, and many forests in Central and Eastern Washington need thinning to restore healthy stand conditions. However, many of the trees have no value in existing commercial markets because they are too small or the trees are too far from any mills. Using some of this material for liquid transportation fuel, heating, electrical power and innovative forest products such as cross-laminated timber will play an important role in the state’s emerging green economy, forest health restoration and the fight against climate change.
- A bioenergy pilot project supported by DNR helped the Northport School District install a wood pellet boiler to heat its school. It is the first time the state has funded the installation of a wood pellet boiler in a public building and is part of a larger effort to promote the wood-energy industry in Washington.
- Serving on the advisory committee of the Northwest Advances Renewables Alliance (NARA), which completed a demonstration flight in November, 2016, with Alaska Airlines using jet fuel made from slash piles.
- Washington State Forest Biomass Coordination Group, coordinated by DNR, the Washington State Department of Commerce and the WSU Extension Energy Program, provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to collaborate, share information and provide guidance for forest biomass and wood energy efforts in the state.
- $1.35 million in grants from the USDA Forest Service have been given to DNR for work on wood energy and biomass utilization projects.
If you have questions about DNR’s wood energy and biomass utilization projects, please contact Chuck Hersey at 360-902-1045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newspaper editorial boards across Washington have weighed in on the importance of improving forest health in Central and Eastern Washington:
- Bring back our Seattle summers — invest in forest health, by The Seattle Times editorial board
- Wildfires Still Hot Issue: Proactive measures needed to protect habitat, tourism, Washingtonians’ health, by The Columbian editorial board
- Addressing forest and climate, by The Ellensburg Daily Record editorial board
- State’s forests must be thinned to prevent wildfires, by The Union-Bulletin editorial board
- Fighting wildfires requires greater focus, planning – and yes, money, by The Seattle Times editorial board