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wildfires, Sue Kuehl Pederson
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WA Commissioner of Public Lands candidate: Never seen fires like past few years

A helicopter flies over fires burning on a ridge in Sumner, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

As flames engulf Washington state, there are a lot of questions about planning and how things got so out of control. Sue Kuehl Pederson is a Republican candidate for Washington Commissioner of Public Lands and joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss what she would do differently than current commissioner Hilary Franz.

“Well, 2015 was a very bad year for wildfires in Washington, and she was voted in in 2016. So I would think if I were her, I would have been very motivated to turn around the frequency of forest fires. They’re all becoming catastrophic fires. I grew up in a salmon hatchery in southern Washington on the Columbia River, and I’ve never seen fires like we’ve had in the past five, six years. That’s actually the reason I entered this race,” she said.

“I was sick of the smoke. It spreads all over the state,” she added. “It’s a huge health hazard, not to mention carbon emissions, climate impact, all the wildlife that are being killed by the fires and our natural resources, which are supposed to be managed by the commissioner of public lands. They’re just getting burned up. And that impacts our revenues.”

Pederson believes Franz delayed plans unnecessarily and acted more like a politician than a manager.

“I think I would say the word delay. She worked with a lot of groups. She’s a politician and I’m a natural resource manager. I’m not as able to go to meetings all day long. I like to solve problems and I was a scientist, so I’m always trying to think about how to do this, how to do that,” she said.

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“I think that her approach just took so much time,” Pederson said. “She has spent four years coming up with a 10-year plan and a 20-year plan to improve our forest health. I would just jump in there and start thinning out the trees.”

Pederson also believes that changes in the foresting industry have contributed to the current situation.

“In the old days, logging was our major industry here, and the timber companies and landowners would harvest and replant. When they replanted trees in our forests, they would space them apart in such a way that those trees would grow up and be the right spacing for the harvest, which was usually around 30 to 40 years. And the reason they would harvest at 30 to 40 years is because the growth rate would start slowing down in these species,” she said.

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“So they would clear cut, and you’d get some open spaces. The trees would be spaced properly for the size they were expected to get. But now we’ve let those trees get bigger and bigger and closer together. We haven’t harvested them,” she added. “So what we have is a forest that was planned for harvest that was never harvested. We have way too many trees, too close together. Diseases are spreading, they’re susceptible to fire. And when they burn, they burn so hot with all that fuel.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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