Washington State, Feds Sign Partnership To Improve Forests, Water, Habitat

Washington state and the Forest Service signed an agreement this week to work collaboratively to improve forest health.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, and Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa today signed a “Shared Stewardship” Memorandum of Understanding, calling it a model for other states to follow.

The MOU, only the second of its kind in the nation, establishes a framework for Washington state and the USDA Forest Service to work collaboratively toward mutual goals and respond to the suite of challenges facing communities, landscapes, and natural resources across the state.

The partnership will work together to improve forest health – a cornerstone of clean water and abundant wildlife habitat – and create exceptional recreational and outdoor opportunities across the state, said a WDFW press release.

“Washington’s fish and wildlife are facing real challenges,” said Susewind. “Large-scale collaborations like this are critical if we are to preserve our native species. It is encouraging to have three of the state’s largest land stewards come together in this new agreement and work more effectively to promote healthy wildlife and ecosystems in Washington.”

“The challenges we face transcend boundaries,” said Christiansen. “This agreement strengthens and advances an already strong partnership between federal and state agencies in Washington state. Working together, we can ensure that we’re doing the right work at the right scale to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, and benefit local communities.”

“Wildfire, forest health, and habitat loss are not issues that respect property lines,” said Franz. “To truly tackle our wildfire and forest health crisis, at the pace and scale this crisis demands, we need a strong partnership between Washington state and the USDA Forest Service. This agreement ensures that our response will be unified, well-coordinated, and deliver maximum benefit for the people.”

The MOU establishes a framework to allow the State of Washington and the USDA Forest Service to collaboratively advance shared priorities, coordinate investments, and implement projects on a landscape scale across Washington.

Under this Shared Stewardship strategy, agencies will focus on forest and watershed restoration projects that improve ecosystem health, reduce wildfire risks, and benefit fish and wildlife habitat, among other priorities.

The “Shared Stewardship” MOU is the second of its kind in the nation. Idaho was the first state to sign such an agreement (December of 2018).

The agreement supports Washington state goals and existing plans, such as DNR’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, which will restore the health of 1.25 million acres of federal, state, private, and tribal forest.

A signed copy of the MOU is available at https://www.dnr.wa.gov/publications/em_nr_mou_051019.pdf

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