Thinning to Control Wildfire May Be Gaining in WA

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A lengthy feature in the January 4 Bellingham [Washington] Herald points toward a change in public and policymaker attitudes toward forest-health treatments in restraining the effects of wildfire, especially in the eastern Washington’s wildland-urban interface. The context is the state’s disastrous 2014 fire season, which burned more than 410,000 acres in the state—about 7 times the annual average—which seems to have spurred forward the notion that the state ought to prioritize preventive treatments—thinning—over suppression.

“State officials estimate that about 30 percent of forests in Eastern Washington—about 2.7 million acres—need restoration treatments, such as thinning trees or planting fire- and insect-resistant ones,” about 20 times the volume typically now treated annually. The article points toward state cost-sharing programs for private landowners, as well as “quintupled” DNR budget requests for forest hazard-reduction programs—and even proposals to provide state assistance to cash-strapped fuel-reduction programs on adjoining federal lands. Reporter Melissa Santos concludes by expressing the hope that bio-energy technologies and investments may provide a stable engine to finance removals in the long term.