The State Lands Restoration and Enhancement category provides funding to two state agencies to help repair damaged plant and animal habitat. These grants focus on resource preservation and protection of public lands. Projects in this category help bring important natural areas and resources back to their original functions by improving the self sustaining and ecological functionality of sites.
Unfortunate timing and a worldwide pandemic has made this project difficult to complete in the planned time period. When the grant was initiated the WDFW Prescribed Burn Program had several projects in progress and several more planned. The Colockum Forest Health Project was added to this workload and expected to be completed in a timely manner. The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic was a death-knell to our program, with State employees mandated to telework from home offices if possible, eliminating field work. As the pandemic progressed into 2021 WDFW employees were allowed to return to semi-normal field work but were impacted by the vaccine mandate. WDFW lost approximately 40 employees due to this mandate, and it especially impacted staffing of the Prescribed Burn Program. This situation still exists today, with many job vacancies unfilled and many projects delayed. Rather than continue to request an unknown number of extensions WDFW prefers to close out this grant and use other funds expected to be available in the coming biennium to complete this project. Completing this project remains a high priority of WDFW’s Lands Division and will be completed as soon as possible. To date of the original grant amount of $254,000 WDFW has spent $39,531.61 on activities including: 1). Completion of the burn plan for this project. This is an exhaustive plan that includes (delineation of burn units, fuel loading calculations, escape plans, first aid contingencies), 2). Completion of all containment firelines. Approximately 4 miles of containment lines have been developed both by equipment and hand labor around burn units. Heavy equipment rentals, equipment operator costs and hand crew costs all add up to costs in preparation for a prescribed burn. 3). Submittal for burn (air quality) permits. Burn permits costs are based on fuel loading calculations and must be obtained in advance. This burn is basically ready to go and WDFW plans to complete the burn in October 2022.