Hilary Franz is relentless in her desire to create bold, transformational change in Washington. Crosscut summed it up best: “She has the energy of a venti-fueled dynamo and a mind that works at a wildfire pace.” Hilary brings a passion for the lands and waters of Washington and a compassion for all of our communities. And she has a leadership style that is rare: she brings people together across long-standing divisions to accomplish great things for not just a few, but for all.
Supporting Our Schools And Communities
Elected Commissioner of Public Lands in 2016, Hilary leads the Department of Natural Resources, an agency that manages 6 million acres of public lands — from coastal waters and forests to commercial properties and farmland. This portfolio generates $325M each year for our public schools and basic county services throughout our state. Through Hilary’s leadership, the agency is developing a strategy for increasing revenue for our schools and communities through innovative strategic investments that protect working forests and farms in our rural areas and increase housing and economic opportunities in our cities.
Protecting Our Communities And Firefighters
As the leader of Washington’s wildfire fighting force, Hilary implemented cutting-edge strategies to keep fires small and protect our communities. She started by listening to our firefighters, visiting communities from Omak to Forks. And then she took action, bringing together state, federal, and local fire chiefs to develop Washington’s first interagency wildfire strategic plan. She then went to bat for our firefighters, working with the legislature to secure record-setting funding to finally give our firefighters the resources they need to build a 21st century wildfire team.
When Hilary took office, she faced a forest health crisis: 2.7 million acres of unhealthy forests that have lost their natural fire resistance, leading to catastrophic wildfires and smoke. Hilary brought stakeholders together to develop a first-of-its-kind Forest Health Strategic Plan, which calls for Washington to restore the health of 1.25 million acres of forest over the next 20-years — a pace and scale that is unprecedented. She is orienting government to invest proactively to address the problem, rather than paying higher costs — in lives and funding — to react.
Growing Our Rural Economies And Clean Energy
Hilary cares deeply about our rural communities. One of her first acts was the creation of a rural economic development initiative aimed at increasing economic opportunity and bridging the urban/rural divide in our state. This initiative has sparked community-led projects across Washington, from working to reopen a timber mill in Raymond to building a facility to recycle abandoned boats in Ilwaco to growing agricultural production in eastern Washington.
Hilary knows we must be proactive in seizing new opportunities. In the face of climate change, she is prioritizing clean energy, including developing our state’s first solar power on public land. This innovative approach not only sets Washington on course to meet its goal of 100% clean power, it also means millions of dollars more for our schools.
Conserving Our Lands And Waters
Under Hilary’s leadership, the Department of Natural Resources has restored critical salmon habitat on state and federal lands, replaced culverts and fish barriers, removed toxic materials from our waterways, and placed hundreds of thousands of acres in conservation, including Blanchard Mountain in Bellingham and a 2,400 mile restrictive easement on the shore of Hood Canal.
And Hilary has stood tall in the face of those who want to despoil our lands and waters for short-term profits. When President Trump tried to open our waters to offshore drilling, Hilary refused to allow any drilling equipment to cross the state’s coastline. And when Cooke Aquaculture negligently allowed hundreds of thousands of non-native salmon to escape into Puget Sound, Hilary terminated their lease.
Hilary’s Washington roots run deep — her grandparents were cattle ranchers and small forest landowners in Pierce County. After getting a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a juris doctor from Northeastern University, Hilary returned home to raise her three boys on a small farm on Bainbridge Island. Prior to being elected Commissioner, Hilary served as Executive Director of the environmental nonprofit Futurewise and on numerous Boards and Commissions. She served from 2008-2011 on the Bainbridge Island City Council.