Washington lost more than a champion for millions of acres of forestland when Mark Doumit died unexpectedly June 21. Doumit, 59, was the longtime director of the Washington Forest Protection Association (WFPA) and a former state legislator.
He lived out the principles of bipartisanship that have become so rare in Washington and across the country — but are desperately needed.
In the Legislature, the Cathlamet native was a widely trusted conservative Democrat from southwestern Washington, territory now solidly Republican. He had represented the district in the House for six years when, in 2002, he moved to the Senate to succeed longtime legislative leader Sid Snyder. Within months, Doumit had a seat on the powerful Ways and Means committee; after winning a full term, he became the committee’s vice chair. Always gregarious and warm, he was known in both chambers for “being smart on budget matters as well as having good relations with Republicans,” as a 2002 Seattle Times article described him. The Chinook Observer called him “a rising Democratic star in the Legislature” four years later.
But Doumit chose a different path than political ascendance. He left office to be a full-time advocate for Washington’s forests. As a lawmaker, he had been an original sponsor of the historic Forests & Fish Law that protected 60,000 miles of streams on private and public land. As WFPA executive director since 2006, he spoke for private forest landowners who manage 4 million acres of Washington’s woodlands and urged state leaders to help their industry, a job that shifted in recent years to pleading for help against increasingly destructive wildfires.
His strong bonds across party lines showed here, too. In the past legislative session, Doumit joined state officials from both parties to push successfully for an unprecedented $125 million investment in wildfire protection. After this proposal passed the Legislature unanimously and became law, Doumit spoke proudly in an interview about the “good investment by the state” and advocated for increased awareness of the high risk.
“We’re in a very dry cycle. That’s something people have to understand,” he said as he walked an interviewer through a century of Washington fire history with grace and patience.
After Doumit’s sudden death, words of warm remembrance came from Gov. Jay Inslee and bipartisan state and federal leaders. House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox called Doumit “my closest friend since 1982.” Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, a Democrat, said “Rural Washington has lost a tireless advocate.”
Doumit had more influence than he had fame. He deserves recognition both for his accomplishments and the relationships he built to achieve them.