Pledge by Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Keeping Washington Evergreen3,000,000 Acres Conserved, Restored, and Grown by 2040
Supporting actions: Avoided Deforestation, Nursery Development, Data and Technological Tools, Science and Technical Assistance, Tree Protection through Management, Forest Product Markets and Innovation, Workforce Development, Environmental Education, Conservation Finance,
Washington State Department of Natural Resources pledges to conserve, restore, and grow 3 million acres of forest by 2040.
Between 1978 and 2001, Washington State permanently lost 700,000 acres of forestland west of the Cascades. During that same period, central and eastern Washington lost nearly as many acres, with the rate of conversion peaking to more than 1 percent of forestland lost each year between 1988 and 2004. Washington State lost an additional 394,000 acres of forest between 2007 and 2019, and University of Washington studies have estimated that an additional almost one million acres of private forestlands in western Washington alone will be at risk of conversion by 2080. This trend of permanent forest loss is likely to continue and increase with population growth and expanding urbanization.
In addition to the permanent conversion and loss of our forests, our state has seen significant impacts of climate change, including increased severity of wildfires. Since 2015 when over one million acres of Washington State forests burned, we have continued to see unprecedented wildfires that have destroyed over three million acres of forest in recent years. With this loss of trees on the landscape comes the decline in a readily available and sustainable timber supply for the forest products industry; a decrease in the quality and quantity of forests available for wildlife habitat, clean water production and storage, carbon sequestration, decreased recreation opportunities, and hindered climate mitigation and resilience potential.
Wildfires are not the only impacts of climate change that our state is seeing. The heat dome that killed over 100 people in June 2021 called attention to the impacts of extreme heat on urban and rural communities alike, and highlighted the disproportionate effects that climate change is having and will have on low-income communities, communities of color, and the most vulnerable of our population. Urban tree canopies provide cooling effects and help to mitigate air pollution, among other benefits, and therefore have become increasingly important as temperatures rise; and yet, Washingtonians of color are far more likely than their white counterparts to live in areas with limited tree canopy. Tree planting in urban and rural areas where it is most needed is a critical tool to bolster Washington communities’ resilience to the effects of climate change.
DNR’s restoration, conservation, and replanting goals are crucial to match the scale of the threats facing our forests. One thing is clear—we will not stop losing our forests unless we take action. DNR’s initiative will follow a science- and evidenced-based strategy to keep Washington Evergreen, now and for the future.
We are working with the environmental community, the forestry industry, scientists, as well as Tribal and local governments and the private sector to develop and implement innovative and scientifically grounded approaches that improve forest health and resilience, conserve critical habitat, protect the livelihoods and character associated with the working forests across our state, and ensure that future generations continue to recognize Washington as “the Evergreen State.”
Washington’s forests provide a wide array of values to our state’s citizens and to the world. Our initiative will ensure that through restoration, conservation, and replanting, we will maintain and enhance that mosaic of values across the landscape, from carbon sequestration, to providing climate smart wood products and rural jobs, to health benefits for urban and rural communities alike.
We will convene a stakeholder advisory committee comprised of scientists, conservation experts, industry representatives, and communities to guide the development of our strategic plan to ensure that there is equitable benefit to all communities across the state.