Washington State Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Hilary Franz unveiled a plan for climate resistance in Washington at a press conference on Thursday, stating that Washington’s rural communities are “the most impacted” by climate change.
Franz spoke alongside Dr. Crystal Raymond of the University of Washington Climate Impact Group, Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D) of Washington’s 40th Legislative District, Mo McBroom, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy in Washington, Chelan County Commissioner Doug England and Bill Dewey, Director of Public Policy and Communications for Taylor Shellfish Farms.
“(Rural communities) are already being impacted,” Franz said following the press conference. “Wildfire, dying forests, we saw landslides on Jolly Mountain just these last two weeks that came from the fire that happened, right, and that obviously impacts and threatens homes and it threatens the air quality.”
Franz added that food production in rural communities is also a point of emphasis.
“Most of our rural communities are on the front line of growing, that’s a key part of their economy,” Franz said. “As we see reduced food production because of less water, less resources, less soil nutrients, it’s going to hit their economy.
When addressing the media, Franz said a group of scientists and experts have worked with the DNR over the past year to assemble the “Climate Resilience Plan,” which is expected to make Washington ecosystems and communities “more resilient and secure,” to climate change in both the short and long term.
“(The plan) lays out achievable steps we can take, in every single corner of our state to lessen the contributions to climate change and build more resilient lands, waters and communities,” Franz said.
Aspects of the plan include the expansion of wind and solar farms and the completion of similar projects already underway, restoration of “over one million acres,” of central and eastern Washington forests with the development of “post wildfire recovery strategies,” the development of climate-resistant tree seedlings and reforestation approaches, landslide modeling improvement, eelgrass restoration and additional trees planted in urban areas.
Additionally, the DNR is hoping to re-plant one million acres of burned forests and to conserve one million acres of “working forestland at risk of development” in Washington.
Franz acknowledged that some of the goals detailed in the Climate Resilience Plan will need the backing of others around Washington.
“Some (tasks) will need additional support, from the legislature, our local governments and our tribal communities,” Franz said. “I commit to you, to use every single lever I have, to support our team and others to get this done and to see immediate and long term action.”
Raymond said the scientists involved in the plan helped to ensure it would help expand upon current climate resilience efforts being made by “local governments, tribes, and fire state agencies.”
She cited a conversation regarding climate she had yesterday with “farmers, foresters and ranchers,” in Goldendale, where they expressed their concerns about the impacts of climate change.
“We’re hearing calls for action on climate resilience from all corners of the state,” Raymond said. “So much more, is needed.”
Raymond added that the University of Washington Climate Impact Group’s scientists collaborated with the DNR to base the plan on the findings of “the most current science of how climate change will affect our state.”
England mentioned he was excited to partner with the DNR to work through the problems of climate change in Chelan County.
“As we see those trees disappearing through fires, beautiful landscapes being washed down the creeks from the resulting floods, we know that there is a crisis,” England said. “Even though we may differ on some policies, we feel very, very strongly that the result is the same.”
England hopes that by partnering with the DNR, a difference is made for his county and ultimately, the state.
“I have children and grandchildren that want to be able to experience the same kind of experiences I enjoyed.”