First forest health hazard warning expected for Washington

Originally published on July 2, 2012 6:36 am

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s Lands Commissioner is expected to declare the state’s first ever forest health hazard warning Monday. The formal declaration comes amid growing concern about the potential for a catastrophic fire -– not unlike what we’ve seen in recent days in Colorado.

If you look at a map of dead and dying trees across Washington, the hot spots spread from the spine of the Cascade Mountains into northeastern Washington. Today, it’s estimated nearly 3 million acres of Washington forest are in poor health -– mostly riddled by tree-killing insects.

State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark says the forest health hazard warning would trigger aggressive thinning operations in a specific fire-prone area.

“It can help restore the forest to health," he says. "It can remove a very dangerous fire situation that we see very poignantly and very dangerously being played out in Colorado where hundreds of homes are being destroyed for exactly the same reason.”

Goldmark says it’s only a question of when Washington will experience another major forest fire. In 2006, the Tripod Fire in northeast Washington burned 175,000 acres in beetle-damaged forestland. Current forecasts show the Northwest faces a mostly normal fire season this year.

Commissioner Goldmark plans to make his formal announcement about forest health at an event near Blewett Pass in central Washington on Monday.

On the Web:

Map of Washington Forest Health: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/SiteCollectionImages/Places/rp_fh_mortality_risk.jpg

National Fire Forecast: http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/monthly_seasonal_outlook.pdf

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