Safeguarding Our Lands, Waters, and Communities: Washington Department of Natural Resources’s Plan for Climate Resilience

This 2020 publication from Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) outlines the ways in which climate resilience can aid the State, and how the department aims to advance climate resilience. Topics discussed include DNR’s current roles, goals for implementation, equity and tribal considerations, and the challenges and opportunities within various resource-specific sectors. DNR aims to advance climate resilience through management of the lands and water they oversee, internal changes within their own agencies and programs, and coordinating with partner organizations. 

The plan is broken up into the following 8 subsections, described in more detail below: A Call to Action; DNR’s Role in Advancing Climate Resilience; Tribal Nations and Climate Resilience; Equity, Environmental Justice, and Climate Resilience; Reversing Greenhouse Gas Trends; Resource-Specific Climate Resilience Challenges and Opportunities; Institutional and Systems-Level Responses; and Near-Term Implementation Steps. 

As outlined in the Call to Action, Washington State is already feeling the effects of climate change, especially with regards to an increased number of wildfires and hotter temperatures both on land and in marine environments. It is within this context of urgency that DNR’s plan for climate resilience emerged.

Two principles guide DNR’s role in advancing climate resilience: Climate resilience requires that (1) DNR must be proactive rather than reactive; and (2) DNR must expand partnerships and collaboration. To advance climate resilience, DNR plans to implement adaptation responses to address different challenges and sectors, including: 

  1. Wildfires: Reduce human-caused fires, enhance wildfire and timber workforces, and create post-wildfire recovery and restoration strategies.
  2. Forest management: Build climate-resilient seed management techniques, reforest with more climate-resilient tree species, enhance DNR’s forest health assistance capacity for small forest landowners, and support climate-informed urban forest management that includes fire-adaptation strategies.
  3. Agriculture and grazing: Reduce financial loss risk from impacts like wildfires or flooding, and curb water reduction risks on DNR-managed lands.
  4. Urban, commercial, industrial land: Enhance infrastructure resilience by encouraging climate-informed designsuch as those that can withstand greater flooding and precipitationand establish an urban forestry strike team to plant more trees in towns that can capture stormwater and decrease urban temperatures.
  5. Ecosystem conservation: Enhance ecosystem monitoring, and implement statewide inventory of rare species and ecosystems.
  6. Aquatic resources and coastal management: Identify highly vulnerable areas, create strategies to protect and restore areas home to vulnerable species, and hasten recovery efforts for salmon and orcas.
  7. Geological surveying: Expedite and improve natural resource mapping and enhance landslide, tsunami, erosion, and sea-level rise modeling.
  8. Recreation: Develop evacuation plans from recreation sites resulting from climate-related events, improve tree management in campgrounds and on trails, and strengthen infrastructure resilience by implementing climate-informed design.

In this plan, DNR states that it has an obligation to consider equity and environmental justice in the execution of its duties, including planning for and enhancing resilience. DNR is currently looking into which communities are most vulnerable to climate impacts, and after this research is finalized the organization aims to create strategies that address these impacts. 

Some of the initiatives DNR plans to implement include: 

  • Forming an Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Committee,
  • identifying and working with highly impacted communities,
  • creating an Environmental Justice and Equity Strategy, and
  • collaborating to assess progress.

Additionally of note, this plan includes a section on Tribal Nations and Climate Resilience, which provides an overview of the struggles tribal communities are facing with regards to climate change, the challenges in addressing these climate risks, and how DNR is providing assistance through programs and other resources. 

Another section of the plan, Reversing Greenhouse Gas Trends, goes into detail about how DNR is both reducing carbon emissions and sequestering carbon in the atmosphere. Some of their initiatives include reducing Washington State emissions with expanded renewable energy, implementing sustainable development and construction, and working to reduce and better manage wildfires. 

The Institutional and Systems-Level Responses section of the plan discusses the ways in which DNR will integrate climate considerations into components of the agency, such as authority structure, capacity development, knowledge, and motivation and accountability. Some of the strategies focus on embedding climate resilience in applicable planning analysis efforts, the incorporation of new training modules, and allocation of resources towards specific resilience goals. DNR additionally outlines actions that require outside support which are needed in order for DNR to advance their goals.

Lastly, the plan outlines the Near-Term Implementation Steps, which includes: initiating next steps that fall under the sole authority of DNR, seeking legislative support for responses that require additional authorities and resources, and supporting the implementation of statewide systems-level climate resilience responses. 

Publication Date: February 2020

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  • Adaptation plan

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