Washington DNR head says state Supreme Court ruling affirms DNR position that it has discretion under constitutional, legislative mandate to manage public lands on behalf of communities, ensure lands provide greatest environmental, social, economic good

Sample article from our Sustainability & Social Responsibility

July 22, 2022 (press release) –

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, head of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), released the following statement in response to the Washington Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Conservation Northwest, et al. v. Commissioner of Public Lands et al., regarding the interpretation of the state Constitution’s policy on management of state trust lands:

“I believe strongly in our mission to protect public lands, support healthy forests, and provide essential benefits to the people of Washington.

“Today’s ruling affirms DNR’s position that it has discretion under the constitutional and legislative mandate to manage public lands on behalf of the communities we serve and ensure our public lands are providing the greatest environmental, social, and economic good.

“I also recognize that in the face of a rapidly changing climate, we must do everything we can to safeguard public lands and protect our forests. This is why DNR has made climate resilience and long-term sustainable land use a core part of our work, including being a nationwide leader in efforts to restore forest health and conserve forestland and critical habitat across our state.

“I look forward to our continued work to ensure Washington state’s public lands are healthy, support our communities, and are protected for generations to come.”

Background:

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) current management practices incorporate significant conservation goals: 40 percent of DNR-managed trust lands statewide (nearly 900,000 acres), including more than 50 percent of land west of the Cascades, are already managed for habitat conservation. DNR's Natural Areas Program also protects nearly 100 sites that are examples of the varied, wild ecosystems of Washington state, safeguarding critical habitat for plants and wildlife to help preserve them in the face of climate change and increased development.
 
The agency manages more than 20 leases for clean energy generation and about 1 million acres for agriculture, and is launching a first-in-the-nation carbon sequestration project that will protect an additional 10,000 acres of state trust forestland.
 
Under Commissioner Franz, the agency developed the first Plan for Climate Resilience, which lays out a course of action to combat the threat of climate change, and worked with the Legislature to protect nearly 40,000 additional acres of state lands, including the preservation of Blanchard Mountain.
 
Every acre of DNR forestland is independently certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, cared for to standards that demonstrate environmentally responsible and socially beneficial management.
 
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