Forest Health Bills Gain Consensus in Washington Legislature

Mar 16, 2017

 

When wildfires roared through Washington during the summer and fall of 2014 and 2015, they caught people’s attention, even Democratic state lawmakers from the Puget Sound area such as Rep. Larry Springer.

“We come back to Olympia after each of those years needing to spend tens of millions of dollars to reimburse those efforts to put those fires out," Springer said. "That is not a sustainable message.”

So Springer joined with Rep.Joel Kretz (R-Okanogan County) to introduce a bill that aims to prevent future fires. Their bill requires the Department of Natural Resources to prioritize state lands that are most in need of active management.

Kretz says the bill will take the worst of those lands, do some thinning, build some fire breaks and try to make it more difficult for future fires to grow so large.

“The idea for this came during the 2015 Okanogan complex where they were able to put a fire line down an area that had been treated," Kretz said. "The commander at that point said if there’s anything you take out of this, that message is that we need places that are resilient, that we’re able to stop a fire. We’d had a coordinated treatment through there, multi agencies that gave us a chance of stopping it.”

The bill directs DNR to create two-year, six-year and 20-year lists for state timberlands that need thinning or planned burns.

Our thanks to TVW for the audio for this story.

The Washington House on Monday unanimously adopted a bill aimed at helping the state do a better job of forest fire prevention.

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