2019 Legislative Wrap: Forests and Rivers

Measures preparing for and preventing wildfires made great progress this session.

Combined with bills from the 2018 session, there has been strong progress towards wildfire preparation in integrated training and deployment among the various Department of Natural Resources (DNR) firefighters, National Guard members and Correctional Department prisoners. More DNR firefighters, helicopters and other equipment have been secured, and on the ground pre-planning included.

From LWVWA Legislative Newsletter:

DNR has a twenty year forest health program to help prevent wildfires especially focused on at-risk forests, treatments of prescribed burning and thinning. Though DNR was well funded, the long term dedicated fund account sought by Commissioner Franz remains a goal for next year.

This summer’s wildfire season will test our preparation. One issue is the smoke also coming from British Columbia, Idaho, or Oregon that is a severe health and economic problem.

River protection has not benefited from forward thinking demonstrated in forest stewardship, except in the area of irrigated agriculture where concerns about future drought continues to secure ample funding for the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

Also, concerns about sufficient salmon for orcas, resulted in the passage of SHB 1579 Increasing Chinook salmon for Orcas, and restricting hydraulic project permits that damage the fish’s spawning habitat. The operating budget included funding for a study regarding preparing for the outcome of the lower Snake River dams breeching or removal. The Transportation budget included funding for fish barrier removal, which will also help salmon, though a bill funding fish barrier removal for counties and cities helping connectivity did not pass.

Other important bills protecting rivers, including ESSB 5322, prohibiting motorized or gravity siphon aquatic mining from certain rivers, and HB 1187, revising hydraulic project eligibility standards for conservation district fish habitat enhancement, failed to pass. These are very common sense bills that we hoped will be introduced next year.

Thanks for all your help in getting so many bills passed!

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