How the ‘Keep Washington Evergreen’ plan could help forests in the state

OLYMPIA, Wash.– Some Washington state leaders are working on a plan that would make sure the Evergreen State stays that way.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley met with forestry advocates, tribal leaders, and industry experts from across the state on Tuesday to introduce the Keep Washington Evergreen initiative. The goal is to conserve one million acres of working forests while also reforesting an additional one million acres. That includes burn-scarred and urban communities that don’t have a lot of tree cover. The end goal is to do all this by 2040.

Here’s what DNR says the legislation would do:

  • Identify, map, and prioritize the most threatened working forests and the state’s highest-priority areas for conservation and reforestation.
  • Develop a strategic plan to meet the goals of 1 million acres of working forests conserved and 1 million acres reforested by 2040.
  • Identify existing tools and incentive programs to achieve the goals, as well as gaps to be addressed.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources said the state lost 400,000 acres of forestland to development from 2007 to 2019. Experts said that number is expected to continue climbing if nothing gets done. If the state stays at the pace it’s at right now, it will lose another 625,000 acres to development by 2040.

That number doesn’t take in all the land that’s been lost to wildfires. DNR said more than 4.5 million acres have been burned in wildfires since 2010.

“The short-sighted conversion of working forests in Washington presents a clear and dire threat to our environment, economy and communities that depend on healthy forests on both sides of the Cascades,” said Commissioner Franz in a statement. “As we continue to improve our wildfire response and make our forests more resilient to climate change, we must also ensure the forests that provide clean air and water, fish and wildlife habitat, and housing and jobs are not lost to concrete. We must keep Washington evergreen.”

Commissioner Franz is partnering with the legislature to put together a 20-year strategy, create a stakeholder advisory group, and make an initial investment of $25 million to help meet Keep Washington Evergreen’s goals. The money will be used to get critical forestlands that could be developed.

More information can be found here.

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