|Contract fire crews and equipment. Photo: Washington DNR.|
“It’s not a question of whether we’ll have fires on these lands, but rather the degree to which we can reduce the damage they cause,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Prescribed Fire Manager Matt Eberlein.
Washington State has suffered extreme fire seasons in the last five years that have dramatically affected communities and rural economies. Communities and lawmakers are pushing for solutions to the wildfire challenges in the state. Despite the political divisions in the current legislative session, lawmakers have found agreement around preventing another year of historic wildfires.
In late March, after already passing unanimously in the House, the state Senate passed passed HB 1489 which seeks to ramp up firefighting efforts by increasing private contractors that the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can enlist during wildfire season.
House Bill 1711 would have DNR prioritize forestland for treatment within a six and 20-year period and create a restoration plan. The legislation could save the state millions in reduced firefighting costs while protecting local rural economies. The bill is also supported by The Nature Conservancy of Washington and is making its way through the Senate now.
Senate Bill SB 5546 calls for the creation of a healthy forest treatment plan and directs DNR to set up a Forest Health Advisory Committee to assist in prioritizing forestlands and the restoration plan.
These pieces of legislation reflect a changing attitude in Washington state. Restoring forestlands, particularly through prescribed burning, has been heavily emphasized during this year's session following the launch of the Forest Resiliency Burning Project last year.
This project has already led prescribed burns at 15 different locations across the state to reduce forest density on high priority lands.
We'll be keeping an eye on the legislative journey of these and other bills in Washington State so stay tuned!
Read more here.