How to fund resources required to eliminate fires and manage public lands? –

23September 2020

Clark County Today goes one-on-one with Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz After her press conference last Friday at Amboy Territorial Days Park where she updated location residents on the Big Hollow Fire that was threatening property owners in both Cowlitz and Clark counties, Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz checked out sources of supplying the profits she states her company requires to much better manage our public lands. Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz appeared at an interview last Friday at Amboy Territorial Days Park where she upgraded area citizens on the Big Hollow Fire that was threatening property owners in both Cowlitz and Clark counties. Photo by Mike Schultz In a 20-minute interview with Clark County Today, Franz spoke about needing resources to combat fires and the prevention of large fires by restoring forests to health.

Franz was chosen to workplace in 2016 and she is running for reelection in November’s general election. Prior to her election, she was a member of the Bainbridge Island City Board. She has actually been a Seattle attorney and previous executive director of the sustainable development supporter Futurewise.

Franz discussed 20 to 50 years of previous forest management as leaving excessive tinder and sick trees in our forests to catch fire. “We have simply in central Eastern Washington, 2.7-million acres of forests that are dead and dying that are literally tinder boxes,” she said.

The Board of Natural Resources sets policies for the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and authorizes the company’s 10-year sustainable harvest plans. They identify just how much timber is to be offered from trust land. The state has fallen back in gathering wood according to a Nov. 2019 Crosscut report.

“Under the 2004-2015 strategy, the goal was to harvest 5.5 billion thousand board feet of timber (MMBF). Nevertheless, that target was missed out on by roughly 460 MMBF– more than the overall wood collected from state trust land in 2015. According to DNR Uplands Deputy Manager Angus Brodie, it is among the biggest balance dues in decades.”

Franz previously proposed a 20-year plan to clear forests. “Our forest health insurance has us dealing with 70,000 acres a year over the next 20 years for 1.25 million acres,” she stated on Friday. “Half of that is federal land due to the fact that they are the most substantial landscape that is at threat and has the most considerable dead infected trees.”

Franz highlighted that “we have got to get on those forests, federal, state, tribal and personal, and start to bring back the resiliency; eliminate the dead unhealthy trees, the smaller sized diameter (trees), get more spatial spaces between those trees so they aren’t contending for soil, moisture, nutrients.”

As head of our state’s Department of Natural Resources, she monitors 1,500 staff members, directs the management of 5.6-million acres of state-owned lands, monitors DNR’s wildfire protection on millions of acres of state and personal forest land.

Franz said she has 73 full-time firefighters; a 70 percent boost from 2016. “When I came into workplace in this position, we just had 43, so we were able to include 30 more thanks to the legislature’s leadership.” Her firm also has 550 seasonal firefighters. Franz said: “I have 1,500 staff members and half are trained for fires.”

Franz oversees 3 million acres of state trust lands that offer sustainable non-tax income for state and county services and public school construction tasks. Her firm offered $325 million in income to the state each year, among the uncommon federal government agencies that generates cash. Those funds primarily go to support schools and likewise counties, according to Franz.

The Department of Natural Resources shows forest lands that are a”high priority”in the 20-year plan proposed by Washington State Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz. Graphic thanks to DNR website Franz was asked by Clark County Today if she would choose to self-fund the acquisition of all

those resources she requires by keeping more of the cash her firm creates.”The cash that we produce from the management of those lands, whether it’s lumber, ag (farming)or other usage, goes straight towards moneying our schools, if it’s school trust lands, or our counties, if it’s county land,”she stated.”We are obliged by state law and the Constitution that money has to go to their advantage.”

Concerning the money her agency produces for the state, Franz stated her company gets a management fee of around 25 percent. That varies depending upon if it is a land sale, or a lumber harvest, or grazing rights.

Franz was asked if she would like more autonomy from the Washington State Legislature. Would she like to keep more of the revenue her firm produces, to make the investments that are required; to buy the equipment, the airplanes and fire truck, and to work with the workers? If she could keep more of that revenue her firm is already producing, then Franz would be more in control, rather of having to ask the legislature every two years.

“I think right now our counties and schools require money more than ever in the past,” she said. “Taking from that earnings that is created from those lands and putting it to wildfire protection is not the best focus. They need that profits more than ever in the past. They’re stretched even thinner than they ever were in the past, with COVID and other difficulties.”Franz was asked if she would think about enabling more wood harvests and put more end up for grazing, in order to create additional earnings, and permitting her company to be less reliant on the impulses of political leaders.

Clark County Today asked: “If you could put up an extra 5 percent of lands for harvesting, for grazing, you’re not taking away from the schools and the other resources the legislature’s already designating. However if you might keep 50 percent of all that revenue that you created by putting up extra lands, for gathering or for grazing, that would offer you brand-new cash to then purchase what you say you need and you’re not taking from others. Is that a possibility?”

“We should be opening up as much of our lands for grazing or ag production as possible,” she said. “But I would continue to put that money into making those lands more durable and generate more money for the schools and the counties.

“I think the legislature together with me, has to work to get the resources for wildfire. And I’m operating at the federal level, because Congress is huge,” stated Franz, who spoke about working with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and federal firms to get more financing from the federal government.

Clark County Today then asked Franz: “It seems like the most significant, more immediate aid would be federal because you do not see the capability since of other demands in the state for you to get anymore state profits.”

“We have actually got to do our part,”said Franz, describing the state. “We can’t just trust that the feds are going to have those resources for us.

“I believe the state requires to step up,” she added. “Very little has actually happened in Congress in a long period of time, although the Land and Water Preservation Act (passed in 1964) was a substantial win, but it was unprecedented offered their track record over the last 5-10 years. If we are basing our fate and future on the federal government fixing it, we’re once again putting our lives genuinely our lives in the hands of somebody else. We have the ability to control ourselves and manage our destiny by investing where we require to in the forest strength, in the community strength and wildfire resources.”

In October 2018, Franz made the biggest spending plan request of its kind in state history: a $55-million Department of Natural Resources proposition for fighting wildfires and maintaining much healthier forests in Washington, according to a news report. To name a few things, it would transform 30 seasonal engine captain tasks into year-round irreversible positions

Earlier this year, Franz asked the legislature to develop a new source of earnings for her firm, KGW news reported at the time. The costs, which later stopped working, was presented in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (West Seattle). Her proposal would supply $63 million each year to fight wildfires and take steps to avoid them. The costs would be the biggest investment Washington has ever made to broaden its wildfire group and restore the health of forests, the commissioner’s workplace stated.

Money for the fund would have come from a $5 additional charge each year on home and automobile insurance plan, according to a Wenatchee World report. Franz estimated it would cost the average household just over $1 each month, based on one homeowner’s policy and two vehicle policies.

The bill is different from a more complex 2019 bill that failed to pass, because the 2020 legislation includes a flat surcharge on insurance coverage, Franz said.

At the time, Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler (Ritzville), criticized the costs as a bad concept.

Schoesler said the proposal would drastically raise costs for farmers and small company operators who own substantial property.

Schoesler stated the state requires to do a better task of handling forests and fighting fires. “We’re being asked to pay taxes to support management that is bad,” Schoesler told the Associated Press.

The new cash would pay for 42 new full-time firemens, 15 fire truck leaders and trucks, a helicopter, and various efforts to avoid wildfires in the very first location, Franz stated.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (Sequim) supported the bill. “That type of technique requires a stable profits source,” he told The Associated Press.

A February 2020 report from the DNR showed wood earnings for the 2019-2021 biennium are forecast to stay at $345 million, while incomes for the 2021-2023 biennium are increased by $0.2 million to $353 million.



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