A 10-year Strategy to Confront the Wildfire Crisis

information released by Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Zach Fuecker photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service has announced that 10 landscapes were selected for an initial investment to implement the 10-Year Wildfire Crisis Strategy, including the Central Washington Initiative on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The Central Washington Initiative landscape includes 2.45 million acres of federal, state, tribal and other lands from Winthrop to Naches, WA and takes an all hands, all lands approach to address the wildfire crisis on this landscape.

“The Central Washington Initiative is the joining of several targeted investments in Chelan, Kittitas, Okanogan, and Yakima Counties that will dramatically increase fuels and forest health treatments on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and neighboring lands,” says Forest Supervisor Kristin Bail. “Together with partners, we will plan and implement projects at a scale needed to address the risk of large, destructive fires which are so impactful to our communities. I’m excited to begin this important work to increase the pace of restoring our fire-adapted landscapes.”

This initiative is informed by the national Wildfire Crisis Strategy and Washington State Department of Natural Resources 20-Year Strategic Plan. The Forest will use this risk-based information to engage with partners and create shared priorities for landscape scale work to equitably and meaningfully change the trajectory of risk for people, communities and natural resources, including areas important for water, carbon and wildlife.

“I am excited to see the U.S. Forest Service implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in a way that recognizes the urgent need to address the wildfire crisis in Washington state. The Department of Natural Resources has partnered with the Forest Service to make great strides under our 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan for eastern Washington. The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has been home to some of Washington’s largest wildfires in recent years, but we are well positioned to work alongside the Forest Service to reduce wildfire risk and restore forest health,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides nearly $3 billion for removing hazardous fuels from America’s forests and will be used to begin implementing this critical work. The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, along with state and other partners, expect to treat 24,000 acres this year and around 124,000 acres total in fiscal years 2022, 2023, and 2024. The Forest expects to receive $24.6 million in funding this year from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and $102.6 million in total funding for fiscal years 2022, 2023, and 2024. These investments will continue to reduce the risk of fire across four counties and will address a range of urgent challenges, among them the expanding risk to communities, natural resources, and local economies. Funds will be used to implement wildfire risk reduction treatments such as tree thinning and prescribed burning as well as planning, analysis and collaborative work.

Additional information on the Wildfire Crisis Strategy is available at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/wildfire-crisis/landscapes;
including this document with additional details about the Central Washington Initiative: https://www.fs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/WCS-Initial-Landscape-Investments.pdf.