The state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, center, speaks with Jason Rygaard of Port Angeles-based Rygaard Logging Inc. in March as cameraman Brian Andrews of Original Productions tapes their talk for an episode of “Ax Men” on the History Channel set for tonight. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, center, speaks with Jason Rygaard of Port Angeles-based Rygaard Logging Inc. in March as cameraman Brian Andrews of Original Productions tapes their talk for an episode of “Ax Men” on the History Channel set for tonight. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

State DNR official on ‘Ax Men’ tonight

Lands commissioner has cameo with Rygaard

PORT ANGELES — State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, already running for a second term in the 2020 election, cameos tonight on the reality series “Ax Men” season finale with Port Angeles’ own Jason Rygaard of Rygaard Logging.

Franz, the first-term Democrat who heads the state Department of Natural Resources, chats at Traylor’s Restaurant in Port Angeles with Rygaard, a long-running star on the History Channel show, which is concluding its 10th season.

Rygaard and his crew, one of four logging companies working tracts in Washington state, western Oregon and southern Indiana, are seen in harrowing scenes while logging on DNR land in Clallam Bay under the “Hoko Revival Sale” with the state agency.

History Channel teases the finale with the prediction, “Jason Rygaard races to clear a hillside in time to fill four logging trucks.”

The show airs at 9 tonight on Wave Broadband channels 42 and 142.

Rygaard, in his ninth season of “Ax Men,” said Tuesday the show contains scenes that are whittled down from days filled with a lack of excitement and is more realistic than ever.

“They don’t do all the drummed-up, made-up scenes like they had in the past,” he said.

“This season is different.

“Things that happened were part of everyday work.”

Rygaard, the progeny of an iconic logging family, and Franz, a former Seattle lawyer and Smith College Ivy League sister school graduate, spent a few hours together in Port Angeles on March 29.

Of 3 million acres of trust land DNR manages statewide in 39 counties, 8 percent — 370,000 acres — are in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“It’s a very different lens for him,” Franz said Tuesday in a 15-minute telephone interview.

“This was an opportunity to listen and learn from the challenges he faces and [for him] to show the struggles he has of being able to take care of his own family, but also what it means for the jobs he’s providing.”

Franz, touching on the acreage DNR manages for the benefit of taxing districts where they are located, said July rains have made wildfire season somewhat less of a concern than she had feared in an April 5 Peninsula Daily News Interview.

Lawmakers earlier this year refused to approve tax-based, dedicated funding for a fire suppression-forest health initiative but did give DNR $50 million for wildfire and forest-health work, more than the agency has ever received, Franz said.

She said DNR also has yet to respond to the Clallam County commissioners’ December letter expressing concerns about losing money from timber harvests under DNR’s preferred, long-term conservation alternative for marbled murrelet protection.

Commissioner Bill Peach said the amount of state trust land expected to be protected for the bird is about 8,000 acres in Clallam County.

County officials want DNR to provide estimates on the economic impacts of the plan in dollars and cents.

Franz said her staff has not yet presented her with “specific numbers” on what it will take in those terms to protect the seabird, a species the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish & Wildlife have designated as threatened.

“We’re working on finalizing those,” she said Tuesday.

Franz, who registered as a candidate for the 2020 election Jan. 11, 2017, the same day she took office, has generated $521,000 in contributions in her bid for re-election, mostly this year, according to state Public Disclosure Commission online records (

Her 1,600 contributions include more than 200 contributions of $1,000 or more from individuals, businesses and other entities including the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe of Sequim, Rayonier Inc. of Hoquiam, Seabrook Land Co. of Pacific Beach, Olympic Resource Management of Poulsbo and Puget Sound Energy of Bellevue.

Franz said she is stepping up her campaign fundraising as she moves into re-election mode.

“We’ve set in motion a lot of great work if you look at our first two years,” she said of her tenure.

Rygaard said during their visit, Franz talked about her plans, about how she has been pro-active as lands commissioner, the state’s wildfires and her family.

“A lot of it was her telling me stuff on her agenda,” Rygaard said.

“She’s loose lipped but at the same time, tight lipped.”

Rygaard enjoyed his time with Franz, he added.

Both are in their mid-late 40s.

“She seemed like a really fun lady,” he said, describing Franz, who commandeers a $215 million annual operating budget, as “really funky.”

Rygaard, the brother of the late Gabe Rygaard, who died in a vehicle collision in 2016 and also appeared extensively on “Ax Men,” said he has not been contacted by the show’s producers about being on another season of “Ax Men.”

His father, Craig, who founded Rygaard Logging in 1992, also is on the show.

“From what I’ve heard from the entertainment people, the ratings are good,” he said.

Rygaard said being on the show helped the company through “a tough spot” several years ago when fuel prices spiked to $5 a gallon, declining to discuss his financial arrangement with “Ax Men.”

“All in all, everything’s going fine,” he said.

“We just get up and go to work every day.”

For Rygaard, that means rising at 2:45 a.m. before making the 90-minute trip to the West End.


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

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