Restoring Forest Health, One Neighbor at a Time

Forest health conditions in Washington state have been in decline for decades, contributing to catastrophic and uncharacteristically severe wildfires – and the state’s Department of Natural Resources is reaching out to partners, including small private forest landowners, to work toward a solution.

Insect pests, disease, invasive plants and animals, human development, climate change, past forest management practices, and a lack of adequate active management have, in combination, created a perfect storm for poor forest health and wildfire risk.

Healthy forests are vital to clean water and air, the economy, carbon sequestration, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. But without significant intervention, the problems our forests face will continue to compound. To restore health to our forests, DNR has developed a 20-year Strategic Forest Health Plan committed to treating 1.25 million acres of unhealthy forestland in Central and Eastern Washington by 2037.

forest health strategic plan coverThe plan is unprecedented in its scope and application. It embraces an all-lands, all-hands approach, recognizing that solutions for improving forest health must span property lines and government jurisdictions. Coordinating forest health treatment efforts with all willing forest landowners in high-priority watersheds is a key part of the forest health plan. DNR worked on the plan with more than 30 agencies, interest groups and organizations, representing private, state and federal forest landowners, state agencies, tribes, the forest industry, universities and conservation groups.

One of DNR’s key landowner groups is you, the small private forest landowner. Our agency has foresters on staff to provide you with forest health evaluations, technical assistance and cost-share programs to help offset the expense of forest health treatments.

We are eager to connect with you, so please call us at 509-925-8510 if you own forestland in Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Walla Walla, Whitman, and Yakima counties; or 509-684-7474 if your forestland is in Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, and Spokane counties, or the northern portion of Lincoln County. When you call, ask to speak to someone from the Landowner Assistance Program.

For more information on the 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan, visit

By Julie Sackett, Forest Health Division,

Wildfire and You

By Rob Lionberger, DNR Stewardship Forester for Eastern Washington

If you are reading this article, you are likely a small landowner who lives in or near the forest. It is also very likely that fire has shaped what you see on your land and in the forest around you as a whole, and that fire exclusion has played a large role in generating the forest conditions you consider natural today.

Our views on fire and its role in forest health have changed much in recent years, and it is time to ignite a conversation about what role it has on your property. In an upcoming series of these articles, I would like to explore various aspects of fire; how it interacts with us on the landscape, from both a utilitarian and an ecological point of view.

I will examine fire behavior and how a fire moves through a landscape, how to prepare your home and outbuildings in the fire environment, issues related to fire prevention and suppression, prescribed fire and small private landowners, and smoke effects and management.

From an ecological perspective, we will examine the history of fire in our forests before settlement, fire as an agent of disturbance and change, the role of fire in a healthy forest, fire’s effect on the landscape, how it can be used as a tool, and how fire suppression has shaped the forest. I hope to spark your interest in these and other topics through the coming newsletters as we examine them with the small forest landowner in mind.

Rob Lionberger is a professional forester who just completed his 30th season fighting wildland fires.  He has a bachelor’s of science degree in forestry with an emphasis on fire ecology from the University of Montana.