Collaboration was the word on everyone's mind at this year's annual meeting of the Washington Forest Protection Association in Olympia on Nov. 19. The theme of the event was "A Spirit of Collaboration: New Partnerships for Working Forests," and it lived up to the title.
Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark titled his talk as "A Spirit of Collaboration Against Wildfire" and said it's critical for the timber industry to support his request for $24 million from the Legislature for increased firefighter training and coordinated firefighting command, including $6 million for thinning and forest restoration to prevent the fires from ever happening. "I don't want to have a 1-million-acre fire season (like 2015) again," Goldmark said.
Goldmark's deputy in the Department of Natural Resources, Mary Verner, reiterated during a panel discussion later in the day that DNR does not accept that wildfire seasons are going to always be horrendous like in 2015, the so-called "new normal."
"This can't be normal," Verner said. "We need to change it."
Kevin Martin, a director for the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service, said for our forests to become healthier and less prone to fire, state, local, federal officials and timber and environmental groups must all come to the table to reach solutions. "We can't do it alone," Martin said. "We have to be working together."
Mark Doumit, executive director of WFPA, said the timber industry prioritizes collaboration, especially after the approval of the landmark 1999 Forests & Fish Law, which brought "together people who were once enemies to the table." Getting policy approved now isn't as much about policy details as people think, Doumit said. It takes about 75 percent good relationships and 25 percent actual policy and science.
"Developing relationships is critical to the process," said Frank Jongenburger, a forestry engineer at Weyerhaeuser.
Bringing all the stakeholders together, each of them with disparate interests, and finding common ground means not coming in with preconceived notions, said Nate Putnam, Chief Forester for SDS Lumber Co. "For a minute, put away the finer points of the rules and and listen - really listen."
For more information about the past year in the Washington timber industry, read WFPA's 2015 Annual Report.