Wildfires and forest health top list of priorities
Our abundant natural resources make Washington a stunningly beautiful state, but we can do ever better. And the first place I’d start is by preventing and suppressing the deadly wildfires that ravage our forests and contaminate our air.
The toll from wildfires goes far beyond the devastation of trees and outdoor splendor that shapes our stunning Pacific Northwest landscape. Wildfires cost lives and property, and fill our skies with haze and toxins instead of the clean air essential to our everyday health.
As wildfires have escalated in frequency and intensity, so has the need to take the actions necessary to prevent them. And the swiftest, surest action our state can take is to improve the health of our forests. Healthy forests will mean fewer and smaller wildfires – and cleaner air even in communities far from the fires themselves.
Without jobs, can we afford to live in our rural communities?
As Washingtonians, we take great pride in our state for a very obvious reason – it’s one of the most desirable areas in which to live and work in the nation. Increasingly, however, living here is becoming harder to afford. And nowhere is this challenge more present than in our rural communities where good-paying jobs can be scarce.
For generations, our state’s abundant natural resources have provided a wealth of recreational and employment opportunities. Over time, though, the number and quality of jobs in our rural communities have dwindled.
We face a stark choice. We can do nothing, as has too often been the case, and hope for the best. Or we can manage our state lands in ways that take advantage of opportunities to create good jobs. As a state senator, I’ve taken this approach for years when crafting bills and budgets. As the state’s Public Lands Commissioner, I could – and would – apply this approach on an even larger scale.
Reducing acidification will require a seasoned lawmaker
Two centuries of industrialization has filled our skies with carbon monoxide, and 30 percent of that ends up in our waters, mostly from upland water runoff that flows into the ocean. This leads to overly acidic waters, or acidification, which is deadly to all forms of marine life – including, and especially in Washington, salmon.
Though acidification is largely seen as an air quality issue, which places it primarily under the scope of the state Department of Ecology (DOE), the considerable role of water runoff makes it essential that DNR work with DOE on joint solutions to this man-made problem. Ultimately, I believe the answer will require more than just coordination between these two agencies – it will take significant legislative action in an arena where I’ve guided bills into law and solved state problems for nearly two decades.
By taking the right action now, we can avoid another Oso
For many people, Oso is shorthand for massive landslide. This quiet little town was home to one of the deadliest landslides in history – and, sadly, the tragedy might have been avoided.
The Washington Geological Survey provided by DNR identifies hazard zones all over our state. These zones are typically sites of ancient landslides where the ground has never completely settled; the materials beneath continue to move, even if only by millimeters at a time, and at some point will give way. This information could be used to avoid development on unstable land, but too few people know about it. DNR provides the data to county officials, to enable them to help the public avoid building in potential landslide areas, but the information never seems to get to those who need it.
More can, and must, be done to make sure this critical information is shared with anyone who seeks a building permit for new development. I would make this an agency priority – a life-and-death priority.
It's time to turn our scientists loose on these problems
All of these are serious challenges that call for energetic solutions. I don’t pretend to know all the solutions, but I do know that DNR has the experts who do. What our scientists need is someone to support them and enable them to do their best. We have the luxury of already having the top minds in the country in place in our state. Now we need to give them the full resources to do the things they understand better than anyone, and to remove administrative barriers in their way.