Commissioner Hilary Franz’s Signature Wildfire Funding Legislation Passes Senate
News Date: 
April 9, 2021
   

Bill would make transformative investments in wildfire response, forest restoration and community resilience

 
Today, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz’s top legislative priority, House Bill 1168, to better prepare for and prevent catastrophic wildfires in Washington state, passed the Senate unanimously.
 
House Bill 1168 is sponsored by Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) and Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda). The bipartisan legislation – developed by a wide-ranging coalition of firefighters, fire chiefs, tribes, environmentalists, public health advocates, and forest products companies – would provide $125 million every two years to boost wildfire response, accelerate forest restoration, and support community resilience.
 
“Washington is on the brink of breaking the cycle of inaction that has created our wildfire crisis,” said Commissioner Franz, who leads the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), including its state wildfire fighting force. “With this historic funding, we can make the transformative investments in wildfire response and forest health that we need to change the trajectory we are on. We are one step closer to protecting our communities, our forests and the air we breathe.”
 
The bill comes on the heels of a historically destructive 2020 fire season in Washington, during which over 800,000 acres burned in more than 1,600 fires and 298 homes were destroyed, including the near total destruction of the town of Malden. For two of the last three years, Washington has experienced the worst air quality in the world due to wildfire.
 
“Lawmakers have agreed that Washington taxpayers can’t afford to keep losing $150 million each year to out-of-control wildfires. And our state also can’t afford to keep losing jobs, natural resources and even entire towns to this crisis,” said Commissioner Franz. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bill over the finish line and signed into law.”
 
Last year’s wildfires rivaled the historic 2015 wildfire season that saw more than 1 million acres burn and cost the state more than $342 million.
 
The state’s trajectory for wildfire severity has worsened in recent years, climbing from 293,000 acres burned in 2016 to 438,000 in 2018 to over 812,000 acres burned in 2020.
 
House Bill 1168 now heads back to the House to accept or reject the changes made to the bill in the Senate. The 105-day legislative session is slated to adjourn April 25.
 
MEDIA RESOURCES
  • House Bill 1168 – Creating a dedicated fund for wildfire response, forest restoration and community resilience
  • One-pager on the legislation and what it would fund
  • B-roll for media use – Omak is here and Malden is here
 
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MEDIA CONTACT
Darwin Forsyth
Deputy Communications Director
Cell: 360-790-4721
darwin.forsyth@dnr.wa.gov