Commissioner Franz Op-eds

Save salmon, create jobs: A new plan for Snohomish watershed

“Despite decades of focus, and nearly $1 billion in investment in recovery efforts, Washington state is home to 16 populations of salmonids that are either threatened or endangered,” said Franz, the elected head of the state Department of Natural Resources.
Everett Herald on Feb. 22, 2022


Our response to the next fire season started four years ago

With record rain and snow across Washington, it may not seem like the threat of wildfire should be front of mind. But we are about as far removed from the last fire season as we are close to the start of the next one – and if last season was any indicator, it can never be too early to prepare.
The Spokesman-Review on Jan. 16, 2022


How we can restore forests, increase fire resilience and protect communities

While we are working night and day protecting communities and responding to fires, we can’t lose sight of the need to be proactive and reduce the risks of fire. We have a forest-health crisis spanning millions of acres in Washington. We must accelerate our pace and scale to restore our forests and make them more resilient against stressors like drought.
The Seattle Times on Aug. 3, 2021

Critical New Funding will Support Wildfire Response and Preparedness

In 2022, you will see our increased wildfire response resources really hit the ground. That means 100 new firefighters, who will do forest health work during the “off” season. It means new firefighting aircraft and modernizing our airplane equipment, including night vision technology so we can fly at night. It also means more resources to support our local fire districts, including more heavy equipment and workforce training to increase our “surge” capability to get on top of fires faster.
The Ketch Pen on May 31, 2021

Wildfire prevention, mitigation can save critical wildlife habitat | Guest Opinion

Last year, our Evergreen State had the worst air quality in the world as a result of wildfires. Before the next fire season starts, Woodland Park Zoo joins the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), in calling upon our state Legislature to fully fund comprehensive wildfire prevention and mitigation.
Tri-City Herald on Mar. 22, 2021

WA can't contain epic wildfires without state, federal help

We need the resources to get to fires quickly and keep them small. This means more investments at the local and state level, from helicopters and engines to firefighters. We must accelerate forest restoration work, thinning our forests, removing dead and diseased trees and increasing prescribed burns that reduce fuels. And we must help communities throughout Washington take preparedness measures, building defensible space around homes and neighborhoods before fires strike.
Crosscut on Sep. 29, 2020

Back to the wild — a whole new outdoor recreation world | Guest editorial

Reopening comes with responsibility, however. We know COVID-19 is still here, and we should be recreating differently if we want to be safe and keep these areas open for us all to enjoy. Regardless of how you spend time outdoors, you have a role to play. Lead by example – minimize the risks you take and the risks you pose to others.
Kirkland Reporter on May 7, 2020

DNR is using public lands to strengthen Tri-City economy | Guest Opinion

When Washington became a state in 1889, Congress granted our state millions of acres of land. The stipulation? The state would manage these lands to support public schools, public universities and a host of other critical government services. At that point, 320 people lived in Pasco. Now, 75,000 people call Pasco home. It’s one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States.
Tri-City Herald on Aug. 31, 2019

State-led climate goals — like Washington’s — will lead the way

Worsening water scarcity, food insecurity, land degradation and wildfires are some of the major consequences our world faces if we don’t act now on climate change. That’s according to a report released Thursday by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that focuses on the effects of climate change on our lands and people. These changes threaten our communities, our economy and our livelihoods. As Washington’s governor, commissioner of public lands, and insurance commissioner, we know that every part of state government plays a role in combating climate change, especially in the absence of federal action.
The Seattle Times on Aug. 12, 2019

Pro Senate Bill 5996 | Proactive plan needed to reduce wildfires, support firefighters

Are big wildfire seasons and the acrid smoke that chokes communities across Washington the new normal? It’s a question I heard last summer, when smoke blanketed our communities, Washington’s air quality was the worst in the world and our firefighters responded to a record high 1,850 wildfires — 40 percent of which were west of the Cascades. The question has already been raised this year, as we experienced 54 unseasonal wildfires in March.
The Wenatchee World on Apr. 25, 2019

Guest Commentary: Proactive Plan Needed to Reduce Wildfires, Support Firefighters

Are big wildfire seasons and the acrid smoke that chokes communities across Washington the new normal? It’s a question I heard last summer, when smoke blanketed our communities, Washington’s air quality was the worst in the world and our firefighters responded to a record high 1,850 wildfires — 40 percent of which were west of the Cascades. The question has already been raised this year, as we experienced 54 wildfires in March, before the regular start of fire season. In Washington, some 2.2 million homes are exposed to wildfire risk. Never before have we faced a wildfire crisis of this magnitude.
The Daily Chronicle on Apr. 19, 2019 

Hilary Franz and Suzy Dix: Bold Plan for Wildfire Response, Forest Health is Needed

Wildfires are increasingly part of our experience in Washington state, with smoke choking our lungs and flames damaging our landscapes, homes and vehicles. At one point last summer, wildfire smoke caused Washington to have the worst air quality in the world. In Spokane, the Air Quality Index reached 382 on Aug. 20, making it one of the five worst cities in the nation for breathing. That’s the equivalent of smoking about 17 cigarettes a day. We have a wildfire crisis in Washington. The Department of Natural Resources, our state’s wildfire fighting force, responded to 1,850 wildfires last year – the most on record – with 40 percent of them on land west of the Cascades.
The Spokesman-Review on Apr. 12, 2019

Challenge the New Normal and Dedicate Funding to Innovative Ways to Reduce Wildfires

Are big wildfire seasons and the acrid smoke that chokes our communities the new normal? It’s a question we heard last summer, when smoke blanketed our communities and Washington’s air quality was the worst in the world. We heard it when our firefighters responded to 1,850 wildfires in 2018 — a record number. We heard it again last month, when we saw dozens of unseasonal wildfires spark throughout Western Washington. The answer: Without action, it will be. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be.
The Seattle Times on Apr. 16, 2019 

Why Seattleites Should Give a Damn About Washington Wildfires

Last summer, wildfire smoke caused Seattle to have the worst air quality in the world. If you were here, you remember it well. The haze that clouded our skies for days. The choking smoke that forced us indoors.
For many in our region, this degree and duration of wildfire smoke is a new phenomenon. What you may not be aware of is that this is a problem decades in the making. The smoke that stung our eyes and choked our lungs is directly related to our state’s wildfire and forest health crisis.
The Stranger on Apr. 8, 2019

Invest in Our Rural Communities Through Recreation

We are fortunate to live and play in one of the world’s premier outdoor recreation destinations. But these wonderful natural spaces also imbue us with key responsibilities. Namely, to ensure every resident has access to high-quality outdoor recreation and our forests and ecosystems remain healthy and able to meet growing demand. And the demand is growing.
Snoqualmie Valley Record on Feb. 8, 2019

Guest Commentary: Wildfire Crisis Requires cooperation

In 2018, our state faced the most wildfires on record. The agency I lead, the Department of Natural Resources, is Washington’s largest wildfire fighting force. Last year, we responded to more than 1,850 wildfires in Washington, starting in March and ending in November. Every day and night, thousands of firefighters working for DNR — and our federal, local, and tribal partners — performed unbelievable acts of courage, grace, and compassion. These firefighters saved thousands of homes and millions of acres of land, on both sides of our state, in our cities, our towns and our countryside.
Yakima Herald-Republic on Jan. 19, 2019

Lands Chief thanks Tri-Citians

When our wildland firefighters are on the job, they receive an overwhelming amount of gratitude from the communities they serve. Driving down the street this summer in places like Benton City, Kennewick, or Eltopia, we saw a number of posters and reader boards that said, “Thank You, Firefighters.” I agree. As the head of our state’s largest wildfire fighting force, I am incredibly proud of our brave firefighters at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
Tri-City Herald on Jan. 13, 2018

Smokey skies don’t need to be a summer norm

Contending with smoke-filled skies can feel overwhelming. Kids can’t go outside to play. Windows are closed. And people stay inside during our best months of the year. But, while wildfire smoke is a new reality in western Washington, a future of clean summertime air is possible. The intense fires that we’re seeing across the West – those burning entire forests and leaving nothing behind – are a relatively new phenomenon.
The Olympian on Aug. 28, 2018

Hilary Franz: We must come together to address our wildfire crisis and our forest health crisis

Most of us remember growing up when summer meant long, warm days full of running, swimming and playing in our great outdoors. Summer was always a welcome respite from gray skies and cold weather. Today, summers have come to mean something else. We have a forest health crisis in our state. This forest health crisis is leading to more catastrophic wildfires. As a result, our summer skies are filled with smoke much of the summer, forcing coaches to cancel baseball and soccer games and parents to keep their children indoors.
The Spokesman- Review on June 26, 2018

Bipartisan federal fire funding fix is good news for Washington state

Washingtonians know that wildfires can be serious natural disasters. We won’t soon forget last summer, when blazes from California to Canada forced our neighbors to evacuate as flames threatened their homes and livelihoods. Choking smoke caused weeks of hazardous health conditions, closing schools and trapping people indoors. Wildfires come at a high price to our communities, our economy and our public agency budgets.