As Washington faces one of its worst wildfire seasons ever, including the largest fire in state history, attention is turning back to the wildfire budget requests made earlier this year by Washington Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.
Goldmark asked the Legislature for $20 million for forest thinning and other wildfire prevention measures. Lawmakers gave him $10 million.
Goldmark asked the Legislature for $4.5 million to actually fight the wildfires as they happen. Lawmakers gave him $1.2 million.
In an interview with the Seattle Times this week, Goldmark said he's upset that the Legislature didn't give him his full request, especially in light of the massive wildfires that came to pass.
“I’m disappointed in their lack of understanding that public safety is a big issue,” Goldmark, a Democratic statewide elected official who runs the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said in an interview. “We’re doing our best with the scarce resources.”
State lawmakers say their practice is to go back and fund the firefighting from the previous summer in a supplemental budget, which is what happened this year for the 2014 wildfires. And Gov. Jay Inslee says the lack of funding never limits how the state fights wildfires (since the firefighting is always eventually paid for).
But is this smart budgeting? And regardless, it doesn't explain the relative lack of funding for forest thinning and wildfire prevention.
The wildfire season is busy enough this summer that in both Washington and Oregon, many communities need help to fight the fires.
For the first time in state history, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources is asking for volunteers to fight wildfires. The state needs volunteers to coordinate at centers in Omak, in north-central Washington, and Colville, in Northeast Washington.
If they can't show up in person, volunteers should not call DNR - the state has already been deluged with responses. They should first fill out this online survey providing the state with their information.
Every volunteer should also have wildland firefighting qualifications, which means "an Incident Qualification Card (commonly called a Red Card), a “Blue Card,” or a letter of certification from a local or rural firefighting agency stating that you have met appropriate physical fitness, experience and training standards for serving on wildfire incidents."
Volunteers can also go directly to the coordination centers in Omak and Colville. More information about the centers can be found here.
Forests and Fish collaborators support DNR and the Governor's funding request for Adaptive Management
The Adaptive Management Program supports the science and accountability foundation of the Forests & Fish Law.
WFPA supports extension of tax credit for biomass to produce renewable energy
Use of forest-derived biomass produces energy, and can help reduce the threat of wildfires by paying for the cost of thinning to improve forest health.
Counties and schools receive the Forest Harvest Excise Tax (FET) and property tax
Public and private timber harvesters pay the FET in addition to the property tax on timberland.
Private landowners help fund wildfire costs
Private landowners share the burden of preparing for and fighting wildfire.
Wood is our Most Natural Resource
Wood from sustainably managed forests provides the best low-energy building material.
Forest Products Industry Jobs Impact
Nearly 40,000 direct jobs are provided by the forest products industry.
Forest Products Industry Economic Impact
Washington is the 2nd largest lumber producer in the nation, paying wages, taxes and providing environmental benefits for Washington State.
Forest Landowner RMAP Accomplishments
From 2001 through June 2013, landowners have removed an impressive 5,641 barriers to fish passage, restoring 3,893 miles of historic fish habitat.