News

Hilary FranzAs the 2018 Washington State legislative session begins, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz has sent an open letter to House and Senate leaders in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy, Environment and Technology, highlighting the threat climate change poses to our state lands and waters and calling for our state to adopt a carbon policy that puts a price on carbon and adheres to Four Resilience Principles.

Commissioner Franz stated in an interview on KING 5 News that we are already seeing significant impacts of climate change on our land and water.  Franz said that while looking at a price on carbon, a mechanism for implementing this policy must ensure that we don’t have an undue impact on those people who produce our food, keep our forests safe and healthy, and protect our waters.

Franz emphasized that we need to implement a carbon policy in Washington State that strengthens the health and resilience of our lands, waters, and communities and invests in carbon sequestration.  This policy must look at our natural resource areas, particularly our farms and forests, as critical areas that will actually help reduce carbon emissions.  We must invest in making our lands and waters more resilient in the face of climate change, which is already impacting us and will only get worse.

In particular, Franz emphasized that we must address the concerns and impacts on rural communities in Washington, whose economies are heavily dependent on natural resources threatened by climate change.  They are also a crucial part of the overall state economy — from the lumber we use to the food we all eat. By recognizing the needs of rural Washingtonians, Franz made a strong case for the bipartisan nature of climate action, as climate chaos will impact all of us.

Explaining why we need to put a price on carbon, Franz pointed out that we are already incurring enormous costs because we are not preparing for the future impacts of climate change. In her letter, she said, “While it is true that Washington is small in global emissions, it is also true that we provide significant national and global leadership when it comes to innovation, technology, and sustainable resource management—all of which are needed to combat climate change.  We are home to rich forests, soils, and aquatic lands that offer climate change solutions that could stretch well beyond our state borders.”

Franz went on to say, “the threats to our healthy and productive lands are real.  We are already late in responding, and we cannot afford to wait for others to bring leadership to this challenge.”  Franz believes that Washington State’s leadership is needed and timely, and she urges rapid action.

As we move into 2018, and the legislature and our communities around the state contemplate this critical and enormous challenge, Franz and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offered the following four principles intended to “guide and inform the statewide debate on carbon policy” — which they believe are critical to successfully addressing climate change and carbon policy.

  1. Tackle the root cause — carbon pollution — and invest in reduction efforts
  • Establish greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) policies, such as pricing or capping carbon, that effectively reduce pollution;
  • Focus investments on activities with a strong nexus to reducing carbon pollution; and
  • Minimize unintended effects of carbon policies on Washington residents as well as energy and trade-intensive businesses such as the pulp and paper, agricultural, and natural resource-dependent industries.
  1. Strengthen the health and resilience of our lands, waters, and communities
  • Address impacts we are already seeing from climate change and that we will only see more of in the future, including wildfire risk, forest health issues, ocean acidification, sea level rise, flooding, landslides, drought, heat waves, and extreme weather;
  • Implement long-term strategies to support the health and viability of rural, natural resource-dependent communities, including investments to improve wildfire suppression and forest health, support water storage and reduce drought, and expand renewable energy systems; and
  • Increase the viability and resiliency of agricultural lands to ensure our state’s agricultural economy, our capacity to produce food for future populations, and the long-term health of our soil.
  1. Accelerate carbon sequestration
  • Tap into the potential of Washington’s forests, farms, ranchland, coastlines, wetlands, riparian corridors, and soils to sequester and store carbon; and
  • Invest in statewide carbon sequestration programs that incentivize keeping working farms and forests working and maximizing carbon stored in trees and soils.
  1. Invest in and incentivize solutions with multiple benefits
  • Incentivize and invest in the management of working forests in ways that increase carbon storage, grow forest management jobs, increase soil moisture storage, increase timber value, sustain timber production, improve summer stream flows, and increase resilience to disturbance;
  • Incentivize and invest in alternative cropping systems and range management to increase soil carbon storage, increase soil moisture storage and increase resilience to drought;
  • Incentivize and invest in marine restoration efforts to address local effects of ocean acidification, increase aquatic carbon storage, and improve shellfish production and salmon habitat;
  • Invest in riverine, floodplain, and wetland restoration to strengthen resilience to floods, improve salmon habitat, increase public safety, increase water filtration and retention, and protect infrastructure; and
  • Invest in tree planning, planting, and management in cities and towns to improve air quality, increase carbon storage, improve water quality during high-rain stormwater events, improve quality of life, and decrease long-term healthcare costs.

We appreciate the leadership and thoughtful analysis that Franz and her staff at the Department of Natural Resources are bringing to the discussion. Washington State’s leadership is needed and timely.  In ongoing negotiations on climate policy, lawmakers should consider including Franz’s recommendations to strengthen the health of our land, forests, water systems and rural communities.