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Washington Governor Signs Forest Health Bill

Washington Governor Jay Inslee yesterday (Monday) signed into law two measures of interest to people in the northeastern part of the state. One deals with preventing wildfires, the other with preventing wolves from killing livestock.

The first law directs the Department of Natural Resources to develop and implement a policy for prioritizing forest health treatments. The goal is to protect state forest lands against wildfire and disease. It requires the agency to create two-year, six-year and 20-year lists for state land that needs thinning or planned burns.

“Healthy forests generate a number of benefits, include water storage, a healthy environment and jobs,” the governor said.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Okanogan County). It’s the second wildfire prevention bill signed into law this session. The other aims to treat 100 million acres of private and public forests during the next several years.

The second law is aimed at developing non-lethal methods of keeping wolves and livestock away from each other. It creates the Northeast Washington Wolf-Livestock Management Program.

“This will help balance the interests of farmers and conservation groups with respect to the endangered gray wolf. Sponsored by Representative Blake,” Inslee said as he signed the bill.

The program will give grants to local groups in Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties that develop programs for keeping wolves away from livestock without killing them.