Washington state Department of Natural Resources
The Washington state Department of Natural Resources oversees about 2 million acres of state-owned forest land. (rnjacobs/Flickr)

SEATTLE - The Washington state Department of Natural Resources is making progress on high profile issues facing the state, but that could be overshadowing the agency's core functions, according to an assessment of Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz by the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters.

The fourth annual State of Our Forests and Lands report measured Franz's progress on issues facing private and state forest lands, aquatic state lands and other forestry issues.

Lisa Remlinger, forest program director for Washington Environmental Council, commends Franz for elevating the issues of climate change and wildfires.

"We've had a couple bad wildfire seasons and will likely continue to into the foreseeable future because of climate change, and we've really seen her be able to try to tackle some things in the climate change space that hadn't really been there before."

While Remlinger praises the commissioner's leadership on these issues, she notes other issues are languishing, especially on private forest lands.

The report gives Franz a failing grade for managing stream temperatures, DNR's classification system for bodies of water and protections for the endangered seabird species marbled murrelets.

Ray Entz is director of wildlife and terrestrial resources for the Kalispel Tribe in eastern Washington and often works alongside DNR. He gives kudos to the agency, saying DNR has done a fantastic job with its forest health initiative.

But Entz also agrees with the report on the agency's failure on private forest land - specifically its Adaptive Management Program, which provides guidance on forestry rules and practices.

He says the program has made little progress over the last two decades.

"There's just some things that could be done quickly that aren't big changes that would show a commitment to the kinds of improvements toward accountability in that system that could happen now, and there just hasn't been any movement to do that," he states.

DNR regulates forest practices on roughly eight million acres of private forest land and two million acres of state-owned forest land.

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