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Why I'm Running

Why I’m running for Public Lands Commissioner

I’ve been a state lawmaker for years, but I’ve been a firefighter my entire professional life. So when I say I understand the danger and destruction caused by wildfires, I speak from experience. I’ve felt the heat and I’ve breathed smoke-filled air.

And I understand only too well, as wildfires have become more frequent and more devastating, how urgently we need to take action to reduce the threat of wildfires through smart land management. I know just how deadly and destructive wildfires are.

We live in a naturally beautiful state that offers all kinds of outdoor recreation. My preference is for camping – getting outdoors and enjoying nature with my family. But I know others like to hike. Or hunt. Or fish. Or swim. We all have our own idea of what recreation looks like. But no matter where we grew up, or where we live, we all share the same expectation – that we should be able to pursue the choice of recreation that’s right for us. And we can’t do that unless we take good care of our lands – not just for today and tomorrow but for our children and their children.

That’s means more than just maintaining what we have. By better managing our resources, we can improve forest health and generate valuable revenue to enhance our schools. And we need to do it in ways that serve the needs of all communities in our state – not just those with the biggest populations.

Having lived all over the state, I’m no stranger to the needs and values of communities large and small. And as chair of the Senate’s committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks, I know any policy that’s made in Olympia has to make sense on both sides of the Cascades.

You might say I’ve been training for this job my entire life. For me, the office of Public Lands Commissioner isn’t a political stepping stone – it’s a destination. I seek this position because I know our lands and I know our state – not because I plan to run for some other office down the road.

I’ve swung an axe to break down a door to get at a fire. I’ve brokered agreements between opposing sides of a legislative issue. In each case, the ultimate goal is the same – to help people. At the scene of a fire, that might mean saving a life. In a Senate hearing, it might mean making sure our waters are healthy habitats for marine life while also accommodating the competing needs of commercial and recreational fishers.

As Public Lands Commissioner, I’ll bring open ears and a commitment to putting our public lands in the hands of the smartest people available. I intend to let the top scientists in our state to do what they already know how to do if only we let them: to give us the best land management in the nation. The Department of Natural Resources has the experts who can do that. What they need is a commissioner who puts policy ahead of politics and results ahead of personal recognition. That’s my promise to you.

– Kevin Van De Wege

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