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 more than $325 million each year for our public schools and basic county services throughout our state. Under Hilary’s leadership, the agency is increasing revenue for schools and communities by protecting working forests and agriculture in our rural areas, increasing clean energy development, and creating economic opportunities in our towns and cities.
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 Forks to Omak. 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 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 will 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 our government to invest proactively, rather than paying higher costs — in lives, destruction, and taxpayer dollars — to react.
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 funded community-led projects across Washington, including building a facility to recycle abandoned boats in Ilwaco, expanding agricultural production, and supporting cross-laminated timber manufacturing.
Hilary knows we must be proactive in seizing new opportunities. In the face of climate change, she is prioritizing clean energy, including the first solar power developments on public land. Her 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 public schools.
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.