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DNR to explore halt to timber harvests near slides

OLYMPIA — The agency that manages state forest lands will ask whether it's legal to declare a moratorium on timber harvests near landslide areas.

The Forest Practices Board, which sets rules for harvesting timber, will also review those rules “with a particular eye to public safety” around slides and the areas where water is absorbed into the ground and recharges the aquifer below. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: Sasquatches need park passes?

 

OLYMPIA — The state Department of Natural Resources apparently thinks Sasquatches, like everyone else, need a Discover Pass if they want to spend any time in state parks or state lands.

The DNR is kicking out a whole line of public service announcements trying to boost sales of the passes, which so far have been underperforming revenue estimates. The spots feature a Sasquatch family. Possibly the worst-acting Sasquatch family in the history of movies, television or Internet videos. The other folks in the videos aren't likely to be starring in a Hollywood blockbuster any time soon, either.

From the videos we learn that Sasquatches take hula-hoops when they go camping, cram lots of junk into their car, like to ride dirt bikes and have questionable fashion sense. But they buy a Discover Pass, even if means going back to town after they get to the park and realize they forgot to get one before they home.

The real question: Where did the Sasquatch get the $35 to buy the Discover Pass?

Preparing for fire season

Inslee deploys a fire shelter.

OLYMPIA — Jay Inslee completed one of the annual spring rituals for a Washington governor this morning: passing the test for minimum wildfire training in the advance of the state's fire season.

To do this, one must walk a mile in no more than 16 minutes. He managed it in just over 13, strolling with Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark staff and assorted media, on a course laid out by the Department of Natural Resources at Capitol Lake. Possibly most impressive, he did it in his dress shoes.

One must also demonstrate the ability to unpack and crawl into a fire shelter in 26 seconds. He had a few seconds to spare.

“I'm trying to get a budget through the Washington Legislature. Geting into a fire shelter is nothing,” he told reporters afterwards.

This doesn't qualify one to fight wildfires in the forests or ranges. That's a much tougher test. This is the minimum for going up to the fire line.

Summers are getting warmer, drier and longer with each passing decade, and tree kills by beetles more frequent, Inslee said, which means fire seasons in most years are getting more longer and more intense.

One might assume that if the governor showed up at a wildfire, they'd let him go to the fireline if he wanted, but governors usually take the test to show support for the DNR.

Verner lands new job

Former Spokane Mayor Mary Verner has landed a new job at the Department of Natural Resources.

She will start next month as the deputy supervisor of resource protection and administration, said department spokesman Matthew Randazzo. That is the lead position over the resource protection division, he said.

Soon after leaving office at the end of 2011, Verner was named the CEO of Spokane Tribal Enterprises.

DNR map shows fire risks

If you're headed out for a camping trip in Washington this weekend, and wondering about the fire danger levels in the place where you'll be pitching a tent, the state Department of Natural Resources can tell you with the click of a mouse button.

It has an interactive Burn Risk map, which lists the fire danger in each of Washington's 39 counties.Click on the county where your camp site will be, and it will tell you, low to very high, the fire danger rating.

 Although to be fair, there's a burn ban throughout the state until Sept. 30, so where ever you go, there are going to be restrictions against piling up logs an a flat piece of ground and holding a gigantic bonfire. Camp fires, where allowed, have to be in fire pits, and they'd prefer if you'd cook on stoves, if it's all the same to you.

Fire season has begun

Okay, everybody, based on the scanner traffic today people don't seem to understand that it's fire season now. We've had several days of very warm weather and wind and any firefighter will tell you that those conditions dry out grasses and other fuels very quickly. I've heard brush fire calls all over Spokane County today. Remember that burn bans are now in place on all Department of Natural Resources lands and residents in Spokane Valley are also banned from lighting anything other than an approved camp fire. Everyone be careful out there and remember not to toss burning cigarettes out your car window.

Fire danger light this season

Gov. Chris Gregoire opens a fire shelter during the annual training and test required for being on site at a wildfire or forest fire.

OLYMPIA — With snow still on the mountains and plenty of rain this spring in the lowlands, the danger of wildfires is light, at least for the first part of summer.

That's the word from state officials today as Gov. Chris Gregoire, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste and others took their annual Department of Natural Resources fitness and fire shelter test at Chehalis Western Trail at Woodard Bay.

The test isn't too strenuous: Cover a mile on foot in 15 minutes, which is a brisk walk, or as Gregoire complained at one point “barely a saunter.” Then open a portable fire shelter, get in it and lie on the ground in the right direction for an approaching fire within 25 seconds. (Tip: The right direction is feet toward the fire, under the theory that your head is the more valuable thing to protect.)

The training is necessary for going to the fire line should a wildfire break out. Even the governor and the WSP chief have to qualify.

Everybody passed, although it's probably not something that will be needed in most of the state this summer, except maybe in parts of the Columbia Basin.

Goldmark v. McKenna and the Methow power line

OLYMPIA – The fight over a proposed power line in the Methow Valley pits Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark against Attorney General Rob McKenna.

Goldmark gets a chance later this year to persuade the Supreme Court to order McKenna to continue representing him in an ongoing legal battle over the proposed route for an Okanogan Public Utilities District transmission line.

McKenna says the legal work to appeal a case the state lost in May isn’t worth the time and energy it would take. Goldmark says McKenna’s office has the duty as the state’s legal counsel to continue the fight.

With each accusing the other of politicizing the case, the Supreme Court this week ordered attorneys for Goldmark and McKenna to file legal briefs this fall and to argue in November whether they should issue McKenna a writ of mandamus – an order from a court to a government official to do something because it’s his or her legal duty.

To read more on the dispute, click here to go inside the blog

Goldmark takes fight with McKenna to Supremes

OLYMPIA – The fight between the state’s top land manager and its top attorney is headed to its top court.

Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said Monday he will ask the state Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, essentially ordering Attorney General Rob McKenna to appeal an eminent domain ruling by the Okanogan County Superior Court.