One of the more eyebrow-raising moves this week in WA state was the announcement by DNR (Department of Natural Resources) Commissioner Hilary Franz that they've appointed a Director of Equity and Environmental Justice.

“Our mission to sustain and protect Washington’s natural resources cannot be achieved without putting equity and environmental justice at the forefront.”

The DNR is tasked with managing about 3 million acres of public trust lands, and these lands are supposed to be managed to generate income that's used for public schools universities and generate other public benefits. That's the condensed version of their role.

However, DNR has come under fire for years for poor forest and wildlands management when it comes to the destructive fire seasons we've seen recently. DNR is so far behind in its mandated clearing-managing of forest wildlands they've stopped reporting updates.

So why has the Department named this kind of Director? According to the DNR and a statement issued by Franz on Monday, Nov. 8:

“Our mission to sustain and protect Washington’s natural resources cannot be achieved without putting equity and environmental justice at the forefront.”

Eliseo (EJ) Juárez is the new Director of Equity, according to DNR he is an "expert on inclusion and policy within non-profit and public agencies."

We noticed in his background one of his previous jobs was working for a PAC known as  Progressive Majority (PM), where he served as Executive Director.  PM, now known as Amplify, was a group affiliated with CA Democratic legislator Pete Aguilar. The group, according to Open Secrets, raised just over $1.3 million which was contributed almost entirely (over 98 percent) to Democratic or progressive candidates.

His resume also includes a recent stint with the Group Health Foundation, which openly opposes law enforcement policies and procedures, and favors "community designed" solutions for public safety---translation--defunding police programs.

Which revisits the question, why does a group that manages public lands and has very little to do with social justice issues or even people for that matter need an Equity and Environmental Justice Director?

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  We contacted DNR Communications Director Sara Ford early Monday, but as of this writing have not received any response. We posted this question to her, but no reply. 

We asked DNR to specifically detail exactly what Juarez's role would be.

We will continue to update this story as it develops.

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