Senate unanimously backs Hawkins’ forest-health bill

OLYMPIA…Sen. Brad Hawkins’ forest-health legislation continued its sweep through the lawmaking process today by winning another unanimous vote – this time from the full 49-member Senate.

Senate Bill 5546 would direct the state Department of Natural Resources to set up a framework for assessing the health of fire-prone lands and treating them. It sets a specific goal of assessing and treating 1 million acres over 16 years, most likely through prescribed fire or mechanical thinning. The bill also includes a stakeholder process and biennial progress reviews to the Legislature.

Hawkins represents the 12th Legislative District, which was hit hard by “megafires” in 2014 and 2015. He credits local leaders who have helped bring this issue to the forefront of state policymaking.

“The fact that this bill moved all the way through the Senate without opposition is a tribute to the people back home who began a community conversation about wildfire and have shared their work in Olympia,” he added. “I also appreciate my fellow senators who recognize that investing in forest-health efforts now should reduce the need for fire suppression in the future.

“It’s really exciting that these ideas have largely been driven from our own community members. My discussions with them and other stakeholders, including DNR, the Nature Conservancy, private landowners, and others, made it clear that the most successful approach would mix long-term planning and near-term action,” Hawkins said.

SB 5546 had also received unanimous support from the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee, of which Hawkins is vice chair, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.