Joint letter from West Coast governors urge increased federal forest management funding

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Washington, Oregon and California’s governor sent a joint letter to Pres. Donald Trump this week urging his administration to direct the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture and US Forest Service to double investments made in managing federal forestlands in the three states.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, along with Govs. Kate Brown and Gavin Newsom, praised the Trump Administration for Executive order 13855, which calls for better management of federal lands – including forest and brush –  to address wildfire concerns and enhance overall conditions. But, the three governors also affirmed that more funding is needed to ensure the executive order is able to achieve its aims. The letter states:

We are encouraged by Executive Order 13855, which you signed on December 21, 2018, promoting active management of America’s forest, rangelands and other federal lands to improve conditions and reduce wildfire risk. However, it is constrained by current appropriations. We all must acknowledge that without significant additional federal investment, these partnerships have too little impact on changing the catastrophic reality of wildfire season on the West Coast.

More federal investments to support improved federal land management could prove beneficial and prevent future catastrophic events, the governors assert. Scientists and researchers anticipate longer fires seasons in many West Coast states, including Washington. A KOMO-TV report noted that wildfire seasons are lasting longer than in prior years. KOMO-TV reports:

In the past, Washington’s wildfire season lasted from June through September. But in 2018, the season started in April and wrapped up in October.

“The projection is that it is going to get longer up here Washington and in particular it’s going to get longer at both ends,” said Maureen Kennedy who is Assistant Professor at UW Tacoma.

The letter from the three governors went on to cite the amount of money each state spends toward forest management, which includes partnering with private landowners, applying the latest technology, exploring new approaches to large-scale forest management projects and working with communities that abut wilderness areas to increase public safety.

In the case of Washington state, Gov. Inslee noted that the coming biennium budget includes more than $85 million allocated for maintaining forest health, addressing wildland fire projects and fire suppression. The letter also alluded to Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz’ requested $55 million to fund wildfire response and prevention with its mention of hiring more year-round fire crews.

Supporters of greater forest management funding say that investments now could prevent significant property loss, health impacts and air pollution down the road. The joint letter echoed those points by concluding:

While the up-front costs of responsible land management create budget pressures, they pale in comparison to the longer-term human and financial costs of doing too little.