Statement on DNR’s Wildland Fire Protection 10-Year Strategic Plan

Statement on DNR’s Wildland Fire Protection 10-Year Strategic Plan

Conservation Northwest / Jan 18, 2019 / Forest Field Program, Sagelands, Wildfire

This week, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, released a Washington state Wildland Fire Protection 10-Year Strategic Plan.

The Strategic Plan, developed by DNR, reflects the input of nearly 1,000 Washingtonians, including experts from the U.S. Forest Service, Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office, Conservation Northwest and local fire agencies. The plan applies to all wildfire response agencies, as well as local emergency responders, forest health experts, and community members.

The plan lays out 40 strategies to accomplish four key goals:

  1. Washington’s preparedness, response, and recovery systems are fully capable, integrated, and sustainable,
  2. Landscapes are resilient – in the face of wildland fire, they resist damage and recover quickly.
  3. Communities are prepared and adapted for current and future wildland fire regimes, and
  4. Response is safe and effective.
BLM firefighters ignite a controlled or prescribed burn, one important tool to restore habitat and forest health, and protect local communities. Photo: BLM

Conservation Northwest participated in DNR workshops and provided input on the new Wildland Fire Protection Strategic Plan through our Sagelands Heritage Program, which works to maintain, restore and connect the shrub-steppe landscape of Central Washington and southern British Columbia, and our Forest Field Program, through which we advance the use of the latest scientific research and engage collaboratively with other stakeholders to promote landscape-scale restoration of forests and watersheds.

Conservation Northwest supports the need for planning, community and landowner input, and developing key strategies to overcome barriers as this strategic plan lays out. In our comments we:

  • Called out the value of prescribed fire;
  • Highlighted the importance of collaborative forest restoration to reduce fire risks, befitting local communities, habitat and wildlife;
  • Supported reducing gaps in wildland fire response coverage, particularly in rural areas, as well as methods for better smoke management;
  • Emphasized the importance of preventing human caused ignitions, including by decommissioning roads,
  • And expanding availability of resources to increase fire-adapted communities.

We recognize the need to put resources where they can protect human life and structures as a first priority, particularly because most other fires have the high potential to be beneficial to ecosystems.

We also believe response before and after fires should recognize the importance of sensitive or critical wildlife habitat that needs to be considered throughout the process of preventing, fighting, and recovering from wildland fires.

Read more in our official comment letter. Or learn about our work on wildfire policy and response on this webPAGE
Recently-burned sage-steppe in August 2018 at Gingko State Park near Vantage and the Quilomene Wildlife Area. Photo: Chase Gunnell