The lack of a capital spending budget leaves the state at risk for more intense wildfire seasons in the years ahead.
The state Department of Natural Resources was requesting $15 million to remove trees from state forests that have suffered from insect damage and drought in recent years. A recent DNR survey identified 2.7 million acres of state forests in Washington that are in poor health, increasing the risk of wildfire.
Some of the money would have also been used to add 40 communities in eastern Washington to the state’s “Firewise” program.
DNR Spokesman Joe Smillie said they’ve seen the success of the program all over the state. Most recently, it saved homes the town of Carlton in Okanogan County.
“ … a fire came through and burned really hot and fast,” Smille said. “The Okanogan County emergency manager actually flew a drone after the airplanes had been landed for the night and you could see black all around these little islands of green which were the houses still standing.”
The Firewise program educates homeowners on how to make their properties safer through things like tree and brush removal.
New money from the capital budget would fund thinning and restoration work in four fire prone regions. It would also put veterans to work on these programs and replanting in areas burned in recent years.