DNR looks to partner with communities on projects

By: 
KATIE LEITHEAD
S-E Staff Reporter

The Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced on June 6 the launch of the Rural Communities Partnership Initiative, an ongoing program that will partner Department of Natural Resources (DNR) assets and expertise with communities around the state to create new economic opportunities, especially in areas of the state that have traditionally depended on the natural resources industry.

“I always say we are a land owner, land manager in this community, and in every community around the state,” said Franz of DNR. “I believe we have a significant opportunity to be able to partner with our local governments, our legislatures, our economic development counsels, universities and private sectors, as well as land owners. Anything to grow and strengthen our local economies.”

This partnership initiative, led by Franz and DNR’s Community Development Director Josh Wilund, will begin in five communities throughout the state. This selection should be made within the next four months.

“I truly believe that while the DNR lands are all throughout the state, whether aquatic lands or 2.5 million acres of agricultural lands, because of their distribution across the state, we are generating opportunities within those local communities and at the state level economically,” said Franz. “The key part of this initiative is recognizing while that work will continue, we really need to take a deeper dive into some key communities around the state to be able to really show the value of DNR and our lands we provide, as well as the opportunities we have in our connections.”

Franz said DNR wants the communities to be geographically, economically and topically distributed. Because, after all, Washington's lands are quite diverse, from the shellfish beds of the Pacific coast to the orchards on the east side.

But which communities will be selected? For now, DNR isn't saying, only that they are considering many different possibilities.

Colville

To kick-off the initiative, the commissioner took a two-day tour visiting communities around the state that are engaged in new development projects with support from DNR.

Franz came to Colville on June 7. The meeting was meant to be a discussion, giving Franz a chance to learn more about the concerns surrounding the Northeast Washington community, and about the projects they're starting or would like to initiate.

In the audience were representatives from each of the tri-counties and members in the forest and logging industries, among others.

Wilund told the group that “this is very much a looking forward initiative.” And Franz noted that while mistakes may be made initially, they will learn from them as they move forward.

Any Washington community, especially those with traditionally natural resource-based economies, are encouraged to form partnerships with DNR. These partnerships can be facilitated through a city council, city chamber of commerce, county leadership, local organizations and businesses or business groups.

According to DNR, there is no minimum requirements for a person or group to engage with them and discuss potential collaboration or development and investment opportunities in a community.

To be part of the discussion, DNR has a form that anyone can fill out on their website (http://www.dnr.wa.gov). Search for Rural Communities Partnership Initiative.

“We will continue to do the work that we have been doing and we will try to even do even better at communicating and collaborating with all of our communities,” Franz said.

DNR will take the feedback they received in Colville into consideration as they develop the program. And even if Colville is not selected as one of the five initial communities, Franz said DNR will continue to work on the problems addressed.

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