Photographed by John Marshall
Eastern Washington’s dry forests have evolved with and depend on regular, low-intensity fire to thrive.
Washington's recent string of record-breaking wildfire seasons is spurring a call to action to develop and implement an overarching strategy to restore healthy forests that are resilient to routine, low-intensity wildfires.
To protect communities and timber resources, we have been aggressively suppressing wildfire for over 100 years, and today, large portions of our forests are unnaturally dense with high levels of forest fuels, and less able to resist insects, disease and severe fire. When wildfire does break out, these unhealthy forest conditions increase the likelihood of catastrophic fires that threaten lives and homes.
One tool in restoring forests to be more resilient to this kind of fire is the use of controlled burns, or prescribed fire, to reduce the fuel load and return forests to a more natural fire cycle.
In the spring of 2016, the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 2928, the Forest Resiliency Burning Pilot project. This pilot is examining the role of controlled burns in creating healthier, more resilient forests.
More details about the project are here: Put Fire to Work
The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is working with partners now to implement a series of controlled burns across about 8,000 acres under the pilot project. The Conservancy is supporting this work. Participants in this pilot include the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative, Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, and Washington Prescribed Fire Council.