Protecting Washington’s working forests is critical to the economic, social, and ecological well-being of Washington’s communities. The Washington Association of Land Trusts (WALT) is excited to announce that Washington State Senate just passed a community forest bill (SB 5873), with tremendous bipartisan support.
The community forest bill, sponsored by Senators Hawkins and Van De Wege, would create a pilot program to support the acquisition of community forestland by land trusts, tribes, and local agencies, and help lay the groundwork for a potential community forest grant program. This pilot program would be managed by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.
WALT’s Executive Director Nick Norton has testified in front of both House and Senate committees during this legislative session about the impact of community forestry in Washington. “As land trusts, we recognize that community forests offer a collaborative, locally-driven solution to many of our natural resource challenges in rural communities,” explained Nick.
“We are lucky to be part of a diverse coalition of partners committed to raising the profile of community forestry, and this bill would represent a huge step in the right direction.”
Simply put, community forests are working forests that are owned and managed on behalf of local communities. Community forests allow for people living in rural areas to participate as stakeholders in forest management decisions. Communities then can organize economic development efforts in a way that balances multiple values and maximizes local public benefits. By protecting our working forests, we support the working forest economy, protect critical water infrastructure, provide open space for recreation, mitigate the impacts of a changing climate, maintain local traditions, and recover important salmon habitat.
SB 5873 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. What can you do? Contact your Representatives today to tell them that you support community forests in Washington and urge their support for SB 5873!
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