Launching 8th Annual Report Card on the Commissioner of Public Lands, Department of Natural Resources
For Immediate Release: September 14, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Zachary Pullin, Washington Conservation Action, 206-639-3760
WASHINGTON STATE—TODAY, Washington Conservation Action releases its eighth annual State of Forests and Public Lands report to evaluate the performance over the course of the last year of Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Commissioner Franz has shown leadership and progress in aquatics, including the cleanup of derelict vessels and taking steps to end net pen aquaculture. Additionally, the Trust Land Transfer program was updated and funded this year, strengthening a tool for protecting ecologically important lands. DNR also secured funds to expand the state’s important Webster Nursery, and is making progress on wildfire and forest health work.
“The conservation community secured unprecedented funding from the Climate Commitment Act to manage state lands for carbon sequestration, and DNR has clear authority from the State Supreme Court to promote non-monetary benefits on state lands,” said Rachel Baker, Forest Program Director for Washington Conservation Action. “More than ever, communities across Washington are demanding stewardship of our public forests for public benefit. Perspectives on our state’s forest have evolved, and DNR’s mandate couldn’t be clearer. All the elements are in place for the agency and the commissioner to move beyond the status quo with urgent, bold action.”
DNR has fallen short of the leadership and collaboration needed to manage our forests for all the people of the state and for beneficiaries. The agency’s failure to challenge special interests, namely timber industry associations, means the public interest has been overlooked and undervalued. This pattern has been particularly striking this year with regard to state trust lands, forest practices, and mitigating climate change. In the wake of the historic 2022 CNW v. Franz decision and the threat of the climate crisis, the agency is at an important crossroads. Working collaboratively with communities and partners yields the greatest chance of successfully supporting beneficiaries, tapping into new carbon funding opportunities, protecting mature, carbon dense forests on state lands, supporting local timber economies, and charting an exciting course for carbon sequestration across natural and working lands.
“The Commissioner of Public Lands must lead to protect the people of Washington, not special interests. This year’s report illustrates a continued pattern of making progress where it’s easy while standing on the wrong side of difficult choices,” said Ken Lederman, Chair of the Washington Conservation Action Board. “Pollution is heating the planet at an unsustainable rate, and the Commissioner and DNR have both a mandate and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make our state’s natural resources a tool to mitigate the most harmful effects of the climate crisis.”
In the coming year, the commissioner must lead DNR by evolving the state’s approach to forestry in order to bring tangible benefits to Washingtonians, and advance an equitable agenda centered on climate change, environmental justice, and tribal sovereignty. We look to the year ahead with a sense of both urgency and hope.
Since 2015, Washington Conservation Action (formerly Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters) has produced an annual State of our Forests and Public Lands Report, which assesses progress made by Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The commissioner is the only statewide elected office that works almost exclusively managing our state’s natural resources. DNR’s actions are critical to the health of Washington’s people and ecosystems.
For a 2023 State of our Forests and Public Lands report grades-at-a-glance document, click here