Congresswoman Schrier Holds Wildfire Meeting in Wenatchee
8th District Representative Kim Schrier was in Wenatchee recently to host a roundtable discussion around the U.S. Forest Service's Central Washington Initiative.
Announced earlier this spring, the initiative is an over $100 million effort to reduce wildfire risk through investments and local partnerships.
Schrier said the whole country has taken notice that the west is on fire every year. According to the US Forest Service, Central Washington is home to six high-risk firesheds (Twisp, Chiwaukum, Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cle Elum, and American River).
"We are now using the term 'firesheds' the way we use 'watersheds' to refer to areas at the highest risk for fire." Schrier said, "Many of those … are right here in Central Washington."
Schrier said it's all about doing what it takes to thin local forests while dealing with the biomass that gets removed. Much of the discussion was spent on the issue of biomass and what can be done with all the extra fuel that would be taken out of the forest. Several new technologies and facilities are coming on line to deal with the biomass issue, although none are up to the scale of the problem yet.
A possible new sawmill in Kittitas County also came up during the meeting. Some officials called for the sawmill's construction, while others cautioned there would not be enough long-term lumber to make the sawmill viable.
Officials also talked about the challenges brought on by state and federal regulations, especially when it comes to some of the Environmental Protection Agency's rules.
"I think it's important to have protections. It's also really important to have common sense." Schrier said, "If a whole forest goes up in flames then we don't have wildlife habitat."
Schrier will next conduct several follow-up discussions.