What we've accomplished
Working forests are essential in Washington. Timber is among our state's most valued natural resources, supporting an industry that provides jobs to numerous communities across the northwest. Keeping forests on the landscape also ensures that they continue to clean our water, absorb pollutants from the air, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife. Perhaps most importantly, forests confer a sense of well-being and peace to people who experience them. Protecting forests helps secure our quality of life and the legacy we leave to our children.
Partnering with local governments and land conservation groups, DNR's land exchange program has directly saved working lands by keeping them in sustainable forestry. Over 2,800 acres of working forest near Lake Roesiger in Snohomish County, which was slated for subdivision, has been permanently protected from development.
I also worked with King County and the Mountains to Sound Greenway to protect 7,000 acres along the Raging River, filling in what had previously been a "doughnut hole" in the 100-mile long greenway that stretches from Bellevue to the eastside of the Cascades. We are currently working on a comprehensive recreation plan for the Snoqualmie corridor so that people across the region can experience this extraordinary natural environment for themselves.
In order to add another tool in our conservation repertoire, I championed legislation in 2011 to create the Community Forest Trust. This new authority focuses on protecting forests near developed areas where communities are engaged in managing open spaces to benefit future generations. By working with together, we can protect a working forest and provide recreation opportunities for the surrounding community.
Forest protection also means taking action in the face of threats like wildfires and tree-killing pests. DNR has the largest on-call fire department in the state, responsible for more than 12 million acres of non-federal forestland. Through quick, safe and effective wildfire response, we have consistently controlled 95 percent of wildfires before they reach ten acres in size.
Healthy forests are the first line of defense against fire. Forest insects and diseases have caused unprecedented tree die-offs in many places around the west, including here in Washington. Responding to these persistent and alarming trends, I initiated the state's forest health warning system for the first time in order to generate and implement science-based recommendations for forest health protection and restoration.
Most importantly, we need to ensure that forestry activities in the state are sustainable and protective of natural ecosystems and wildlife. Our Forest Practices program regulates timber harvest and other forest management activities to ensure that water sources are clean, endangered species are protected, and the forests remain healthy.
Priorities for next term
As growth continues to put more pressure on our forests, we must redouble our efforts with tried and true conservation tools while pioneering new approaches to forest protection.
The foremost priority will be to manage trust resources sustainably, maintain and strengthen forest practices rule compliance, and consistently deliver cost effective wildfire control. This means we will continue providing a buffer of permanent protection against other land-use pressures and achieving conservation benefits for our natural treasures like Puget Sound. We will implement reforms in our forest practices rules that improve protections from catastrophic landslides.
Central to our success will be helping landowners gain access to additional sources of revenue for the benefits generated from working lands, such as carbon sequestration and clean water. We will complete an ongoing pilot project to test the market incentives for watershed protection and enhancement through forestry, which is among the first of its kind in the nation. We will also promote the increased use of tools such as conservation easements and transfer of development rights to keep working forestlands from being converted to houses.