Local leaders taking wildfire presentation to Olympia to encourage action
It is remarkable how a small group of committed individuals in North Central Washington have changed the conversation in the state and in Washington D.C. about what we can collectively do to address the wildfire threat in North Central Washington. These leaders have proven Margaret Mead correct in her view that one should never doubt the power of a small group of thoughtful, commit people to change the world.
Following that summit Summit in November of 2015, work began on a 70-minute presentation called Era of Megafires by U.S. Forest Service researcher Paul Hessburg in collaboration with Jeff Ostenson of North 40 Productions and John Marshall Photography. That provocative, informative and solution-oriented presentation has been a smash hit around the region, sparking conversations about what might be possible. It highlights the work of many, including Chelan County Fire, the North Central and Tapash Forest Health Collaboratives, firewise.org, the Cascadia Conservation District, Chelan and Douglas Counties, and the potential to reduce the risks of wildfire by using multiple tools in a comprehensive approach. Using such tools as prescribed burning coupled with mechanical thinning, and more aggressively using managed wildfires and other approaches can, over time, help us address this issue.
This presentation has caught the attention of the state Legislature. Hessburg and others will be making the presentation this Thursday in front of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee and on Feb. 9 to the Senate Natural Resources and Parks committee as well as the Wildfire Caucus, a group of lawmakers representing districts affected by fire.
Driving the regional discussions shows what we can do as a community when we pull together to get something accomplished. I’m a firm believer that we need to step up and be solving our own issues to the extent possible and that we must take the lead in these conversations rather than waiting for federal and state agencies to act. To solve our forest health issues, we will ultimately need state and federal assistance, but by taking the lead and showing what is possible from the get-go, we are setting an example for the rest of the country.
There is incredible power in collaboration and cooperation to solve our most vexing issues by starting with the things we can solve. Hessburg, Marshall, and Ostenson have done amazing work in making a compelling presentation that inspires action. This issue, which might seem impossible, can be addressed if we are willing to lead the way and use a collaborative approach.
The presentation has gotten rave reviews, including this one from Erik Warrington of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation:
“This is, if not, the best crafted messages and format conveying the reality of the natural and human dimensions of wildfire occurrence around our communities,” he writes. “This presentation is not a lecture from the scientific community, nor is it a “fear of fire” message, it is both an ecological and social story of our forests, our communities, and how they inter-mingle. It is a message that community citizens and decision makers need to hear.”
The Era of Megafires presentation was developed under the auspices of the Museum. It’s in our long-term best interest to keep driving this discussion and get the federal and state help we need to make North Central Washington a test case for the country. It’s just the conversation starter that is needed to light the fire of innovation.