OLYMPIA… A Senate vote today completed the Legislature’s work on Sen. Brad Hawkins’ bill to support funding under “good neighbor” agreements between state and federal agencies related to forest management and other land-related work.
On Friday the House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate Bill 6211 after expanding it to cover a second state agency. The Senate, which had unanimously passed Hawkins’ bill Jan. 24, agreed with the amendment in another unanimous vote today, sending the measure to the governor’s desk.
Hawkins’ legislation would create an account in the state treasury to process revenues collected under the Good Neighbor Authority agreement entered into last year between the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who signed Washington state’s Good Neighbor Authority agreement in March 2017, said Hawkins’ bill would let the Department of Natural Resources “get to work building healthier, more resilient forests across all of Washington.”
“The unanimous support for my bill is more confirmation of the Legislature’s commitment to improving forest health and reducing wildfires across our state,” said Hawkins, who serves the 12th Legislative District. Similar to Hawkins’ previous legislation, many stakeholder groups supported passage of the bill, including The Nature Conservancy. “Work to improve the health of federal forests will complement the efforts we are making with state lands. I am thrilled at the bipartisan support for this important partnership.”
The amendment made by the House, sponsored by Rep. David Taylor of Moxee, would create a similar account for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to aid in forest health treatment on federal lands. WDFW is in the process of negotiating its own Good Neighbor Authority pact with the U.S. Forest Service.
Hawkins included language in the bill as a Senate amendment that will allow SB 6211 to take effect upon the governor’s signature, rather than waiting the standard 90 days from the end of the legislative session. It means DNR will have immediate authority to process revenues and authorize expenditures under the program.
The bill supports the 2017 law created by Hawkins’ Senate Bill 5546, which directs DNR to establish a framework for assessing the health of fire-prone lands and treating them. The stakeholder-driven policy, inspired by the Wenatchee-based Wildfire Project, sets a specific goal of assessing and treating 1 million acres over 16 years, most likely through prescribed fire and mechanical thinning.