In response to another intense wildfire season in 2020, the legislature established a Wildfire Response, Forest Restoration, and Community Resilience Account to fund wildfire preparedness, prevention, and protection. The climate crisis, coupled with a historic legacy of fire suppression, has fueled a cycle of uncharacteristic wildfire in our state. Although wildfire is a natural part of many Washington ecosystems, the growing size and severity of wildfires poses risk to public health, human property and life — particularly among our most vulnerable populations.
HB 1168 sets an intention to dedicate $500 million over the next 8 years to support implementation of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan for Central and Eastern Washington. Funds will support increased firefighting and aviation capacity; actions to restore forest health, including prescribed fire; actions to protect homes and communities; development of a forestry workforce; and creation of a small forestland owner forest health program. We applaud DNR’s leadership in bringing this bill forward. We hope to see these funds contributing to restoring ecological resilience to Washington’s forests and resilience to its communities.