King CD hires staff to address local wildfire concerns

The King Conservation District (KCD) in Renton, Wash., has long worked with landowners on forest stewardship planning. Recently, within the past three years, KCD has expanded its work to cover wildfire resiliency and preparedness.

When word spread that KCD covered wildfire resiliency and preparedness, many landowners began requesting the district’s services. The increase in public interest led to contacts with homeowners’ associations and other small communities who had wildfire concerns and green space that the members were responsible for.

“There were no resources for [these small communities] beyond having to hire a contractor,” KCD Program Manager for Urban and Rural Forest Stewardship Mike Lasecki said. “So, we saw the most impact on the ground with working with those communities. We identified this need in the local county to provide this service at the community scale.”

The expansion in services also required increasing staff capacity. Matt Axe joined KCD in June as the full-time wildfire and forest resiliency coordinator assigned to conduct community wildfire risk assessments, as well as meet with individual landowners and small community forest landowners for stewardship planning.

“He hit the ground running,” Lasecki said. “Right now, seasonally, the wildfire resiliency and preparedness is taking up most of his time, but he’s also working on a stewardship plan for a community we had been in contact with prior to his starting.”

Axe will be working with communities to implement wildfire risk reduction projects, which could be as simple as clearing out dead brush, understory or stacks of downed tree limbs.

Axe has also conducted presentations to communities, which is the first step when KCD identifies or hears of a community wanting a risk assessment and/or forest stewardship planning.

The district travels to the community, provides information, listens to their concerns, addresses questions, and works in partnership with local, county and state officials like the Washington Department of Natural Resources, local first responders and the fire district and the county’s forestry program.

“We meet people where they’re at,” Lasecki said. “One of the benefits of us being able to come out is we know you’re going to keep that tree, so here’s what you need to do in order to do so, and still reduce the risk. We’re here to help.”

KCD is also working on cost-share initiatives for individuals and communities, assisting in planning chipper days and/or other events where the landowners and contractor would benefit in combining the services needed into a multiple-property effort.

“[Axe] has given us that single point-of-contact for our landowners and communities. So far, it’s been a great success,” Lasecki said.

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