DNR releases plan to improve health of Eastern Wash. forests

The Washington Department of Natural Resources, under the new leadership of Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, just released a 20-year plan to restore the health of state forests in Eastern Washington.

The plan has received generally good reviews from stakeholders. Jason Callahan, Director of Governmental Relations for the Washington Forest Protection Association, wrote in a blog post that DNR’s plan was encouraging.

The new 20-year forest health plan and recent legislative enactments signal an exciting time for forest management across Washington. The Legislature and the Department of Natural Resources are recognizing the challenges and complexity of the road ahead and with their leadership, the diversity of Washington’s landowners is being positioned as a benefit to the state as we move forward toward a healthier forested landscape.

As Lens points out, the plan was crafted by “56 participants, including 33 agencies and organizations” and “calls for greater collaboration among these entities on forest treatment, along with increased timber harvesting to rebuild the state’s dwindling mill infrastructure.”

Matt Comisky is the Washington state manager for the American Forest Resource Council and one of the participants involved in crafting DNR’s forest health plan. He told Lens that it provides “good, solid direction to the process, but also gives the flexibility to take into account the inherent differences” in land uses.

“The one key thing is while owners may know property boundaries, as we’ve seen, fire does not know boundary lines.” With better cooperation, “you can bring more resources to the table. Traditionally, in the past they (land owners) may not have been as well coordinated with their forest health treatments.”

Don Brunell, retired president of the Association of Washington Business, wrote that he hopes Franz and DNR will expand the program to Western Washington.

Hopefully, her agency will look at the Olympic Peninsula between Aberdeen and Forks for a similar initiative in state-owned forests.

The 20-year plan to improve forest health in Eastern Washington also got kudos from the editorial boards at the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the Tacoma News Tribune and the Yakima Herald-Republic.

The Spokesman-Review wrote that “it’s encouraging to see that the state is making a concerted effort to improve its practices and prioritize wildfire prevention.”