Hilary Franz meets with Ukrainian delegation to discuss wildfire management, forestry


As part of a growing list of international partners, Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz met with a delegation of Ukrainian officials last week to discuss wildfire mitigation and sustainable forestry management.

On Thursday, Franz met with a delegation led by State Specialized Forest Enterprise Director General Yurii Bolokhovets, who requested the meeting to strengthen bilateral cooperation in forestry. The cooperation is the latest partnership for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which includes meetings with officials from British Columbia, Iceland and Finland.

“In Washington, how we protect, manage, and fight for our forests is the measure of our state’s strength and values,” Franz said in a statement. “We’re eager to share best practices because forests are critical to solving the climate crisis and powering economies. 

In a news release, DNR noted the risk that Ukraine's forests face, particularly as the war with Russia continues. According to the Ukrainian State Forest Resources Agency, over the past three years, an estimated 30% of the country's forests have suffered damage.

“The people of Ukraine and people of Washington state stand united not only in our commitment to defend freedom and democracy, but we also want to combine efforts to safeguard our shared values protecting nature with its ecosystem for the generations yet to come,” Honorary Consul of Ukraine Valeriy Goloborodko said in a statement.

According to DNR, the war between the two countries has caused more than $2 trillion in environmental damage and resulted in reduced biodiversity, increased air pollution and an increase in wildfires, among other damage.

“Our forests everywhere face great threats from development to disease to, sadly, war. All of us, here in Washington and across the globe, must unite to defend our forests,” Franz said. “That is why we are proud to stand with Ukraine and offer any assistance we can in their struggle to defend their people and lands.”

According to the DNR, the meeting included a discussion of Washington’s Forest Health Strategic Plan. Created in 2017, the 20-year, $250 million plan invests in forest restoration, wildfire suppression and economic development.

In the first six years of the plan, Washington has completed more than 600,000 acres of forest health treatments on federal, state, tribal and private forest lands. The state is currently on track to complete over a million treatment acres by 2027.

According to a DNR spokesperson, the state should expect a “normal” fire season this year. The Washington State Department of Ecology declared a statewide drought last week, stating “With winter’s snow storms largely behind us, our state’s low snowpack and forecasts for a dry and warm spring and summer have spurred the Department of Ecology to declare a drought emergency for most of Washington.”