DNR, Finland Strategize Forestry Practices

Last week, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), hosted the Ambassador of Finland to the United States Mikko Hautala and a Finnish delegation on a tour to strategize opportunities for collaboration between Washington state and Finland on sustainable forestry efforts.

The weeklong visit included field tours of DNR-managed lands, timber mills, and community centers to discuss forest health treatments, land management challenges, and the implementation of technologies like biochar and cross-laminated timber as a response to the climate and housing crises.

Last week’s visit was a result of the longstanding partnership between the Evergreen State and Finland. Finland and Washington have similar forestry and maritime economies, and thus similar and evolving challenges of maintaining the health of forests and aquatic ecosystems.

“As the leader of Washington’s Department of Natural Resources, I know that many of the struggles and challenges we face are also mirrored in other countries,” Commissioner Franz said. “As climate change continues at a breakneck pace, it is necessary for every nation to make investments and policy changes right now so we ensure a bright and prosperous future for the generations who will follow us.”

The group toured throughout the state, including stops at the West Fork Teanaway Campground, which focused on using forest health treatments to benefit local economies, and the Hampton Lumber Mill and Cogeneration Facility in Darrington to discuss mill operations, and the opportunities and challenges around sustainable logging and ecosystem services.

“One of the things Finland and the State of Washington have in common is the importance we place on forests and forest industry,” Ambassador Hautala said. “The bio economy sector is a crucially important sector in Finland, the most forested country in Europe. In 2019, the sector accounted for 13 percent of the value added generated in the national economy. As Washingtonians do, Finns have a close relationship with nature. I look forward to the exchange of ideas and cooperation between Finland and the State of Washington in areas such as sustainable forest management, new bio-based products, smart forestry, wood construction, and harvesting in the years to come.”

During the 2022 Washington State Legislative Session, the Legislature approved a Finnish Sustainable Forestry Proviso, introduced by Sen. Marko Liias, which included funding for DNR to collaborate with governmental agencies of Finland and Finnish organizations to implement sustainable forestry.

“Meeting with the Finnish delegation was inspiring from a rural timber town perspective,” Town of Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin said. “I was most impressed with how the Finnish interact with their forests and forest ecology, and their innovative initiatives that ensure that every tree harvested is used to its greatest potential. Sharing ideas and education will inspire the next generation of forest stewards, foresters, engineers, and technicians who will bring wood based solutions to modern challenges.”

The delegation and DNR representatives are working to identify specific opportunities for further collaboration in 2023.