State and Federal leaders signed a Memorandum of Understanding to restore forest health on 350,000 acres over the next decade
The Washington Department of Natural Resources and Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region will collaborate over the next decade to complete 350,000 acres of landscape restoration and wildfire risk reduction on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. This collaboration – known as the Central Washington Initiative – will be implemented as part of the federal government’s 10-Year Wildfire Crisis Strategy with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize the ongoing partnership between DNR and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (Forest), as well as their shared commitment to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration in Central Washington.
“The Central Washington Initiative adds to the already impressive list of transformative actions we and our partners have taken to address the wildfire and forest health crisis in the Evergreen State,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “We have already made great progress working across all land types to reduce wildfire risk and restore forest health on hundreds of thousands of acres.
We worked tirelessly last year to secure unprecedented funding for wildfire response and forest health with House Bill 1168. Adding the Central Washington Initiative and funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help us treat unhealthy forests at the pace needed to protect our most vulnerable communities.”
The Central Washington Initiative landscape stretches from Winthrop to Naches and includes lands managed by DNR, the Forest, and their partners. The agencies will jointly treat approximately 35,000 acres per year using the all lands, all hands approach central to Washington state’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Central and Eastern Washington. This strategic plan, introduced in 2017, sets a goal of restoring the health of 1.25 million acres of state, federal, Tribal, and private land.
“The Forest and DNR have a history of successful partnership in Central Washington,” said Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest Supervisor Kristin Bail. “We are excited to build on our previous successes with this commitment to the Central Washington Initiative landscape. The Central Washington Initiative will join targeted investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, House Bill 1168, and other sources at a scale needed to address the risk of large, destructive fires, which are so impactful to our communities. An all-lands approach is essential to address the wildfire crisis, and with DNR’s responsibility for forest health across non-federal lands, they are a natural partner for these efforts.”
Tillicum Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project
The Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) agreement signed in 2017 by DNR and the U.S. Forest Service is crucial to the Central Washington Initiative. The Forest and DNR recently used the GNA to implement the Tillicum Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project on the Entiat Ranger District.
Located within the Central Washington Initiative landscape, this non-commercial hazardous fuels reduction project spans more than 4,000 acres northwest of Entiat. As one of the 39 priority areas defined within the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, DNR put forward $3.3 million of funding from House Bill 1168 for the project, a massive undertaking to reduce wildfire fuels and restore the natural forest structure in one of the most fire-prone areas of Washington. It is a proof of concept for forest health and restoration projects at a landscape scale.
“The Tillicum Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project shows what we can accomplish together when we leverage the needs and resources of Washington and the Forest Service to achieve our shared goal of ensuring future generations reap the benefits of healthy forests,” said DNR Federal Lands Program Manager Trevor McConchie.
Joint Tour of Tillicum Project Planned for Thursday, June 16
DNR and the Forest will host a field tour of the ongoing Tillicum Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project on the afternoon of Thursday, June 16. Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, Forest Supervisor Kristin Bail, State Forester George Geissler, and project managers from both agencies will be on hand to speak to key aspects of the project, the MOU, and the Central Washington Initiative.
Media interested in participating in the field tour must contact DNR Forest Resilience Communications Manager Will Rubin by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14. Confirmed attendees will receive tour details Tuesday afternoon. DNR will provide photos and B-roll from the tour upon request.