DNR to launch assistance program today; department chief to visit Port Angeles

Hilary Franz, the state’s new Department of Natural Resources commissioner, will visit Port Angeles on Thursday. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

PORT ANGELES — A technical staff-assistance program targeting communities rich in natural resources is being launched today by the state Department of Natural Resources and its new leader, Hilary Franz, who will visit Port Angeles this week.

Franz said Monday a technical team from DNR will assist communities in realizing more value from their DNR resources.

“We will not be bringing money to the table,” Franz said Monday. “We are bringing our resources. It is a strategic partnership.”

Franz, a former Bainbridge Island City Council member elected in November as Washington’s 14th commissioner of public lands, will visit Clallam County on Thursday as part of the two-day, five-city rollout of the Rural Communities Partnership Initiative, her staff announced Monday.

She will attend a meet-and-greet lunch with public officials and community leaders at the county courthouse in Port Angeles followed by a public meeting.

Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach, who organized the courthouse get-together, said Monday that the 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. lunch, in the emergency operations center in the courthouse basement, is expected to draw about 30 participants.

Peach said it will be followed by the 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. meeting at the same location.

Peach said Franz will outline her initiative and answer questions from the public and the county commissioners, who are hosting the meeting.

She will visit Colville and Prosser on Wednesday and Willapa and Darrington on Thursday.

The Port Angeles stop on the tour highlights Clallam County’s largest city as a focal point of the timber industry, Franz said Monday in a telephone-conference interview with Peninsula Daily News, Tri-City Herald and the public-access TV station TVW.

“The goal of this tour is to highlight the type of work that is already under way and to draw attention to the possibilities for other areas of the state, inviting any person or group to reach out to DNR and discuss potential partnership opportunities,” a DNR press release on the tour said.

Franz said in the interview that she wants the initiative to allow for “a deeper dive” with local governments and communities to help them identify infrastructure needs related to DNR assets.

Those assets could be further developed to benefit those communities both economically and environmentally, she said.

An application process to DNR for assistance will be implemented later this year, she said.

DNR hopes to select communities for assistance by December.

Franz will be accompanied by Natural Resources Community Development Director Josh Wilund, whose position was made possible by a staff reorganization, Franz said.

The program is “a call to action and a call to empowerment” for communities “to be a key part of this initiative,” Wilund said Monday.

DNR’s Olympic Region, which includes Jefferson County and the northwest portion of Grays Harbor County, has 371,000 acres of state forest, agriculture, urban and conservation lands.

“The idea of having outreach at the community level rather than at the statewide level has a lot of merit,” Peach said Monday.

“Maybe someone in Eastern Washington wants to talk about solar power, and someone in Western Washington wants to talk about CLT [cross-laminated timber].”

A fact sheet on the program that highlighted “mill expansion and forest health” said that 13 mills have closed in Washington state since 2010 but that legislation from the 2017 session sets the goal of restoring 1 million acres of ailing forest in the next 16 years to generate more than 3 billion board feet of timber.

New technology and forest management practices can provide “an active and sustainable approach to local natural resource management,” according to the fact sheet.

Other DNR-related opportunities that could be expanded by the initiative include recreation, strategic development of water rights and agriculture leases and wind turbine and solar energy leases in DNR lands.

“She is going to be looking for other things we can do, that DNR can do, to facilitate recreation and tourism,” Peach added.

“There’s no money, so what is being offered? The issue will be, how does this program facilitate what is currently being considered.”

Clallam County and its junior taxing districts received $7.26 million in timber revenue from the state Department of Natural Resources in 2016, county Treasurer Selinda Barkhuis told the county commissioners in March.

The sale of Clallam County timber on DNR-managed trust lands yielded $3.57 million to the trust beneficiaries in 2015, $7.74 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2013, Barkhuis said.

DNR managed about 93,311 acres of state forest transfer and purchase lands in Clallam County, Franz said in an April 27 letter to county commissioners’ Chairman Mark Ozias.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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