Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is partnering with the state legislature on the Keep Washington Evergreen initiative, which aims to conserve 1 million acres of the state's forests while reforesting another million acres by 2040.

The plan is an attempt to build off of House Bill 1168, a wildfire response bill that was unanimously passed by the legislature last session.

Franz said Tuesday that rural communities suffer economically when forestland is permanently lost, while treeless urban areas can experience health and safety issues.

"We should all be outraged when there are rural communities experiencing generational poverty and high unemployment year after year." stated Franz, "Where it's difficult to find and hold a job and provide basic needs for their families because these communities that provide critical wood resources that we all depend on are losing our working forests to development."

The initiative also looks to improve tree cover in urban areas. A lack of tree canopy in a neighborhood or city can result in temperatures dozens of degrees higher than what otherwise should be. Franz said treeless urban areas can also reflect disadvantages in socioeconomic background and race, as more affluent communities tend to have more trees and thus a more protective canopy.

A lack of trees can also cause flooding and debris flows on either side of the state.

Franz is seeking $25 million in capital funds in order to almost triple the state's seedling production from 8.5 million seedlings a year to 20 million seedlings.

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