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Franz proposes plan to save forests, both urban and rural

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Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz today [Tuesday] unveiled a plan intended to save a million acres of forest land from development.

She says the proposal is a logical next step to the forest health initiative approved and funded last year by the legislature. That provides money for a variety of measures to make forests more resistant to wildfire. This proposal is meant to keep a million acres of working forests from being paved over.

“The legislation we are proposing today will grant DNR the authority to develop a much-needed plan to help us all work together to identify the most critical working forests at risk of conversion and prioritize actions we can take to harness carbon markets and incentivize small forest landowners to keep their forests intact,” she said.

Franz plans to ask legislators for $25 million to buy forests that are attractive to developers.

The commissioner chose the Webster state forest nursery near Olympia as the place to announce her Keep Washington Evergreen initiative. The nursery, she says, has grown more than 900 million trees since it opened in 1957. The state will likely need more places like it to fulfill another prong of Franz’s plan.

She proposes to plant hundreds of millions of new trees over the next 20 years. Those would be earmarked not just for forested areas, but also in urban places where trees were once more plentiful.

Her proposal has the support of a variety of groups, from the Colville Tribe to environmental groups and timber organizations.

Colville Tribal Chairman Andrew Joseph, Jr. praised Franz for sending air support last support to help fight a fire that burned perilously close to Nespelem, the home of tribal government buildings. He says fires such as one that heated streams to temperatures that were too warm for fish to swim in. He said newly-planted trees will help to shade waterways to make them more habitable for fish.

Heath Heikkila from the American Forest Research Council thanked Franz for recognizing the economic benefits of working forests.

Other speakers said they’re happy Franz is including urban forests in her plan as a way to cool cities at a time when summertime temperatures become uncomfortably hot.