On the Radio: Washington’s Forests In the News

Washington’s forests are critical for water, recreation, wildlife, local economies.

The Nature Conservancy is working with many partners to restore these forest to health, to better withstand the impacts of climate change and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.


Building Fire Resilient Communities with Networks

Written & Photographed by Reese Lolley, Director, Forest Restoration and Fire

Last week was the second annual Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network communities and steering committee workshop! It was held in Wenatchee where seven communities shared their outcomes of being in the trenches for a year, and three new communities were brought on to learn about how Fire Adapted Communities provide a framework and approach to adapt to live in fire prone environments and reduce community risk.  

There are three elements of being prepared and resilient to increasing amounts of fire predicted in Washington:


To put unwanted fires out effectively to project people and places, and manage those that can have defined benefit. 

While The Nature Conservancy does not have a large role , there is a nexus.  Traditionally, the act of suppression has been the focus.  


Greater than 2.7M acres of forests east of the Cascade crest are in need of active restoration (thinning and or controlled burning). Water, wildlife, and fire do not recognize ownership boundaries. Working in large watersheds, using strong restoration evidence base to set initial goals, collaboratives plan and coordinate projects leveraging resources across ownerships to increase pace and scale of outcomes having a collective positive impact. 


Empower people in communities to take action to prepare, reduce risk, share lessons learned and be resilient living in a fire environment.  Learning Networks are developed to accelerate growth and develop innovations, to engage solutions for complex problems.  

It's amazing what the local community along with partners and The Nature Conservancy have accomplished in three short years:

  1. Washington was the first National Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network member to expand to a statewide FAC network, which is now being replicated in other states.
  2. $500,000 invested by Bureau of Land Management into the state network.
  3. We have fostered organizational and fiscal capacity of the South Central Resource Conservation and Development Council for future management of this effort.
  4. We've engaged a WA-FAC steering committee of Federal, state, private, and NGO organizations that provide member communities with greater access to resources as well as facilitating understanding and sharing across and within organization silos of excellence (just recently brought on State Commerce).
  5. We have ten communities across the state that are taking a diverse set of actions that is reducing their wildfire risk, and sharing those lessons learned with each other with various tools within the network as well as sharing outside the network with other communities, including policy makers. 

It is exciting to see these results not only making a difference in communities, but also for how this work indirectly supports our lands work in creating more resilient forest conditions for wildlife, water, and people.  

From one Fire Chief engaged in WA-FAC-LN said, “there was no way a year ago I would of signed onto a letter to the Governor encouraging him to sign a Prescribed Fire Pilot Bill and exclaiming how important controlled burning is as a part of the soultion," but how excited he was do so recently, to a Northeast Washington home owner association member at last week’s meeting making a statement to the group that “in Washington we need to learn to live with fire, that by engaging communities and supporting their efforts in reducing risk, it will allow land managers to manage a lot more fire for multiple objectives that will in turn make forests more resilient and communities safer."

Changes in culture are hard to measure, while we are far from community members taking actions to prepare for fire being  as normal as preparing for an earthquake in San Francisco or living in a flood zone,  we are trending in the right direction!

This is a testament to what can be done with a little vision, leadership and developing and working with a network of committed partners!  


Learn more about the National Fire Adapted Learning Nework (FAC-LN)

Connect and restore forests to break the cycle of megafire


Fragmented ownership and poor management have left our state’s forests primed for catastrophic fire.

Written by Robin Stanton, Media Relations Manager
Photograph by Benj Drummond/LightHawk

Weaving the land back together and implementing big restoration actions that cross ownership boundaries will help prevent megafires. 


If you look at a map that shows ownership boundaries in Washington’s eastern forests, you’ll notice a distinctive checkerboard pattern of public and private ownership. That’s a legacy of the land grants of the 1860s, when the federal government gave alternating square miles of land to the railroads to encourage them to reach the West Coast.

Today, that fragmented pattern has led to more development in the midst of the forest where it’s vulnerable to fire and breaks up habitat and recreation areas. It also means forests have been managed piecemeal, without a holistic, science-based plan for largescale restoration.

The Conservancy has been working for more than 10 years to fix this fragmentation, by bringing more of these private lands into public and conservation ownership. Our most recent acquisition of 48,000 acres in the Central Cascades is a big step forward in this work.


A recent study by Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service scientists show that 2.88 million acres of eastern Washington forests are in need of restoration, both by thinning trees and using controlled burning to clear out forest fuels that have accumulated for a century.

We’ve led the way with a pilot restoration project on 20,000 acres in the Oak Creek Wildlife Area west of Yakima where we thinned understory trees and shrubs according to a carefully designed plan: Cutting away small 10- and 20-year-old Douglas firs gives 400-year-old ponderosa pines light, air and water to thrive. Thinning smaller trees also prepares the forest for controlled burning, which further enhances the forest’s resilience to future wildfires.

Today, we’re working through the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative (see below) to plan and implement an 80,000-acre restoration project in the Manastash-Taneum area east of Cle Elum. This collaborative restoration will encompass federal, state, and Conservancy forest lands and is expected to get underway this year.

It’s essential that the Conservancy and committed partners act quickly to restore eastern Washington forests to make them less vulnerable to megafires. Forest collaboratives comprised of private stakeholders, as well as state and federal agencies, are coming together across the West to overcome barriers and find solutions to the issue of improving forests’ resiliene and health. The Nature Conservancy is engaged in and is a leading partner of many of these collaborative groups in Washington:

Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative: The Conservancy took a lead role in forming the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative in 2006 with the aim of bringing together state and federal agencies, the Yakama Nation, and private landowners to increase the pace, quality, and scale of restoration projects across 2.3 million acres of eastern Washington forest.

Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition: The Nature Conservancy is engaged in the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, a group of diverse stakeholders working together since 2002 to promote forest restoration that is beneficial to forest health, public safety, and local economies. The coalition’s priorities, such as fuels reduction projects, serve as examples of successful collaborative work for the public and similar organizations.

North Central Washington Forest Collaborative: The Conservancy is a leading partner in initiating The North Central Washington Forest Collaborative.

The Nature Conservancy helped to establish the Washington Prescribed Fire Council, a coalition of agencies and stakeholders working to safely introduce more prescribed fire into the landscape.