Community Forest Program Sign-On Letter
Community forests provide local stakeholders a voice in the use and management of important working forest lands, providing jobs, recreation, and habitat benefits in the process.

Together, we have a chance to make big things happen for community forests in the 2021 legislative session. Join us in requesting full funding for the Community Forest Program administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO). This sign-on letter will go to the Governor and Legislature, demonstrating the breadth of support for this important tool for local communities!

Update:  We will continue collecting signatures until the end of January for an additional letter to legislators, and we have already shared a letter with the governor.
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Sign-On Letter
Dear [Governor Inslee/Members of the Legislature],
We are writing to ask for your strong support for the Recreation and Conservation Office’s (RCO) Community Forest Program during the 2021 legislative session. Community Forests allow people living in rural areas to have a direct stake in the ownership, use, and long-term management of important forestlands, while protecting their working status in perpetuity. In centering the needs of local stakeholders, community forests act as a critical tool to safeguard and unlock the economic, ecological, and social benefits Washington’s working forests hold.

For nearly a decade, our state has seen increasing awareness of and support for this model of forest ownership in Washington and its potential role in rural economic development. In 2019, at the request of the Legislature, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) produced a report demonstrating the diverse statewide interest in locally-owned community forestry among cities, counties, Tribes, and nonprofits. In addition, an economic analysis of the Mt. Adams Community Forest in Klickitat County conducted in 2018 illustrated how more active management, cross-boundary partnerships, and the leveraging of local support typical of community forests can derive significant new economic benefits.

In recognition of this potential, the Legislature passed a budget proviso in 2020 directing RCO and DNR, to establish funding criteria alongside stakeholders and submit a ranked list of proposed community forest projects for funding  consideration in the 2021-2023 biennium.

In response to the call for applications from RCO, the agency received 15 community forest applications from diverse partnerships across the state, from the Olympic Peninsula to Spokane County. Whether emphasizing new jobs in the woods, developing the next generation of foresters, preventing sprawl in fire-prone areas, or provisioning the cool, clean water we all rely on, these projects represent what is possible when diverse voices come together to envision a shared future for keystone forested lands.

Funding these projects will catalyze an extensive array of planned restoration, forest management, and recreational development activities. This on-the-ground work leverages significant local and federal funding, and will spur rural economies at a time when that investment is needed more than ever.

We urge you to show your support for these communities by providing $22 million for community forests in your 2021-23 capital budget, as recommended by the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board. At a time when the health and well-being of our people, our environment and our economy are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, community forest projects like these guide meaningful investments to protect jobs, lands, livelihoods, local business, and our quality of life.

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