Important momentum has been created by the Wildfires and Us Summit, the accompanying exhibit at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center and also the museum’s forest learning project at Squilchuck. We’re making progress.
Participants came away from the summit with a clear understanding that there is no easy fix and that it will take an integrated approach that involves local, along with state and federal, actions over a period of time to reduce the threat and impact of fires on our communities.
Following the event, we heard from political leaders who were impressed by the quality of the program, the amount of local engagement and the attendance. I think they see this as a good place to make strategic investments.
Perhaps most important was that we demonstrated our local commitment to step up and take action to address these issues rather than waiting for those in Olympia or Washington, D.C., to solve them for us. Here are some of the key local initiatives:
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We have a growing network of local groups using Firewise approaches to help landowners be better prepared.
Conservation districts like Cascadia are providing critical risk assessments and providing opportunities for homeowner training to reduce their risk of wildfire loss.
The city of Wenatchee has a grant to study land use codes to reduce the risk of loss in wildfires.
We have civic leaders and community members educated on the issues who understand that we can’t just put all of the fires out as a strategy. We have to learn to live with fire and smoke, but that we have a choice in how that comes to us.
We have a great asset in the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative, which is pursuing cooperative ways to improve forest health through prescribed burning, logging and other efforts.
If we want federal and state help on huge challenges like wildfires, I think it’s critical that we do everything possible at the local level first.