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First Forest Health Hazard Warning For Wash. Expected

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.

Bug-infested forests are a growing concern in Washington state. Photo credit: Washington DNR
Bug-infested forests are a growing concern in Washington state. Photo credit: Washington DNR

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:

National Fire Forecast:

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.