Commissioner Franz unveils Forest Health Plan and advisory committee to fortify Washington forests
October 25, 2017
Today Public Lands Commissioner Hilary S. Franz stood where plumes of Jolly Mountain Fire smoke reared overhead just months ago to announce a new plan to treat Washington’s ailing forests and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
The Commissioner made her announcement in Cle Elum flanked by legislative, industry, environmental and community leaders. The audience included many of the 56 participants from the more than 33 agencies and organizations that collaborated on the plan’s creation.
Commissioner Franz stressed that implementing the plan will take time – it spans 20 years – and the vision is expansive. The plan involves a combination of scientific restorative work and prescribed burn treatments (using controlled fire to heal forests in a natural way) across 1.25 million acres of eastern Washington forestland. That’s the land-based equivalent of combining Seattle, Spokane, Yakama, Ellensburg and Wenatchee.
The Commissioner credited bipartisan work last legislative session by Washington senators Brad Hawkins (R) and John McCoy (D), and representatives Joel Kretz (R) and Larry Springer (D), with partnering with her to make forest health a top priority so early in her tenure. Commissioner Franz also announced the state’s first Forest Health advisory committee, a group that will be critical to implementing the recent bipartisan legislation.
The committee represents diverse interests spanning industry to conservation groups, forest collaborative land managers to affected communities, and those who protect wildlife habitat to those who respond to wildfire emergencies. It is her hope that this committee will form a strong foundation for the statewide partnerships
“We now have the plan and the partners necessary to treat our high risk forests with scientifically sound, landscape-scale, cross-boundary projects. With long term partnerships and commitment we can begin to stem the severe damage from overgrowth, mismanagement, disease and intense wildfire that so many of our forests are experiencing,” said Franz.
The plan includes strategies to develop marketable forest treatment byproducts from the waste made by thinning sick and overgrown forests. By following responsible, scientific methods for improving forest health, Franz added, Washington can both improve forest resiliency and add new natural resource streams to local economies. The plan also lays out protocols to work with landowners, collect and share better science, and prepare communities for coping with threats created by unwell forests.
“If we fail to do this work, we face formidable wildfire seasons in an increasingly difficult climate,” said Franz. “Improving the health of our forests will reduce risk to lives, communities, livelihoods, water supplies and essential forest ecosystems.” She continued: “I look forward to the successes this plan will bring and its expansion throughout the state as we work to cope with the changing health of our landscape.”
Find a full version of the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington here: www.dnr.wa.gov/ForestHealthPlan
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