It’s time for transforming our approach to wildfire in Washington and across the West.
As the U.S. Senate debates a major infrastructure bill this week, hundreds of thousands of acres in Washington have already burned. Smoke-choked air is keeping thousands indoors. Our “fire season” began in March, and April saw a record-setting number of fires. Firefighters across the state are battling a handful of major blazes. And just yesterday, lightning strikes in central Washington ignited a number of fires, as much of the state remains in a drought.
Today, an op-ed in The Seattle Times by our state director, Mike Stevens, with Yakama Nation Natural Resources director Phil Rigdon and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, calls for a transformative level of federal investment in wildfire resilience.
Communities are at the center of the solution to the wildfire crisis. But during the past century, land managers have historically excluded people from the solutions to fire management, to detrimental effect. Indigenous peoples’ use of fire sustained healthy ecosystems that supported important cultural and food resources and helped ensure communities’ safety for millennia. Today’s collaborative work by the Yakama Nation, the state Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy on community-led conservation, such as our work in the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, is a model for fixing our wildfire crisis.
A recent report from The Nature Conservancy calls for major federal investment in wildfire resilience — five to six billion dollars annually over the next decade. As Congress debates a far-reaching infrastructure package, we urge leaders to include this transformative level of funding. When we invest in people, we can create lasting solutions for our local communities—and we can restore our relationship with fire.
You are part of the solution. You can call on your members of Congress to act by sharing this op-ed on Twitter:
Communities are at the center of the solution to Washington’s wildfire crisis, and we’re calling on Congress to invest in resilience for both forests and people.
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