Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short applauded the inclusion of $2.75 million in this year’s state capital budget aimed at addressing long-overdue forest restoration projects in Northeast Washington. The funds were secured in the budget by Rep. Norma Smith, a Whidbey Island Republican who serves on the House Capital Budget Committee.
“Our forest lands serve a lot of needs in our state, from jobs and recreation to funding our schools, so we are extremely pleased to see funds included in the capital budget to restore and protect local natural resources. It’s past time we address clearing our forests of debris and focusing on disease management,” said Kretz, R-Wauconda. “I appreciate Representative Smith taking the initiative to send the same message we have relayed to Western Washington legislators over the years. This is an excellent step to rebuilding the health of our valuable timber lands.”
The last minute push for funding was an effort by Smith after she heard testimony this session on the dire conditions, including disease and fire danger, in some of the state’s forest lands, particularly in the 7th Legislative District.
“Each year, we go to Olympia attempting to educate Western Washington lawmakers on the unique issues facing our part of the state, and this is one instance where all our work paid off,” said Short, R-Addy. “Last year alone, Washington state spent $11 million to fight fires on forest lands. I believe investing these funds to maintain our forests in ways that are less prone to fire will save money overall. We could see millions of dollars, thousands of acres of forest land and private property protected because of the projects included in this budget. I cannot thank Representative Smith enough.”
The $2.75 million will be used solely for improvement treatments on forest lands in Eastern Washington that have the highest needs for fire protection and disease management. The forests receiving funding for restoration projects are located in Stevens, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Okanogan, Yakima, Kittitas and Spokane counties. Treatments on private lands are also included with the understanding that the property owner will maintain the improvements to forest health.
Kretz and Short added that they will keep a close eye on the projects as well as the results to ensure the funds are put to good use, and also to make sure projects move along smoothly.
For more information, contact Bobbi Cussins, Public Information Officer: (360) 786-7252