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How Washington is helping diseased forests get healthier

Prescribed burning is a key tool that Washington crews use to remove smaller trees and low-level vegetation, which reduces the threat of massive wildfires.

What can be done to help Washington forests regain their health?

The eastern half of Washington has nearly 3 million acres of unhealthy forest, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Unhealthy covers a wide range of concerns, including forests that are overgrown. It also includes forests that are infested with bugs and fungi.

The state Legislature recently approved an additional $125 million every two-year budget cycle to fight fires and improve forest health.

"We are in a fight against time," said Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.

Already in eastern Washington, there is more work being done primarily in the spring to burn out low-level brush and small trees. The goal is to recreate the more open landscape dominated by fewer and larger trees that existed for thousands of years before a century of fire suppression in the 20th century. These are called prescribed burning, but this excess vegetation can also be removed by mechanically cutting it down.

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