DNR-run cost share program helps reduce wildfire risks, improve forest health

Forest before and after thinning.
Removing the smaller, weaker trees from this Eastern Washington forest (left) produced a more natural and healthier stand (right) that will be more resilient to wildfire and insect infestations. Photos: Glenn Kohler/DNR.

The ‘official’ start of the 2014 fire season in Washington State is in April, but DNR is already helping private landowners to reduce wildfire risks. One effort likely to pay off starting this year is our drive to improve forest health conditions, a big problem in many of the state’s drier eastside forests.

A federally funded cost-share program, administered by DNR in Washington State, pays for up to half of a landowner’s cost to thin and prune trees and remove forest slash. The program is available to forestland owners in portions of Ferry, Klickitat, Okanogan, and Yakima counties where a Forest Health Hazard Warning was declared last fall by DNR and the U.S. Forest Service, which is funding the program.

Getting the word out

Last year, DNR mailed more than 10,500 informational notices to landowners in the designated forest health hazard warning areas describing how to assess forest conditions and reduce disease, insect, and wildfire risks. DNR also established a toll-free telephone number, launched a web page, conducted extensive media outreach, and held 16 workshops to spread the word about DNR’s various assistance programs.

During 2013, DNR foresters responded to technical assistance requests from more than 500 landowners who manage over 97,000 acres. The federal funding for sharing forest thinning and slash disposal costs with landowners aims to improve forest conditions and dramatically reduce wildfire risks by protecting healthier trees through the removal of small, weak trees and disposing of the resulting limbs and brush.

This year, DNR continues to focus on forest health concerns. Thinning today’s overgrown forests can encourage the growth of more ponderosa pine and western larch —trees better adapted to the area’s historic pattern of smaller, but more frequent, naturally caused fires.

Forest landowners may apply for cost-share funding online.

To learn more about the Forest Health Hazard Warning, visit http://www.dnr.wa.gov/foresthealth

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