Those of us living in northern Arizona are acutely aware of our environment. We live here in part because of our desire to be in close proximity to the natural wonders surrounding us. We also know that healthy snowfall brings visitors to our city and replenishes water supplies. Dark sky initiatives further allows us to differentiate ourselves as an environmentally aware community.
Recently, there has been a spate of conversations and meetings regarding the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) and concerns about meeting some of the goals outlined in the plan.
4FRI is a massive collaborative effort between the U.S Forest Service and key community and industry stakeholders to thin and ecologically restore the forest ecosystems on portions of four national forests - Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Tonto - along the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona. Its stated goals are:
Plan and implement restoration treatments across 2.4 million acres of ponderosa pine forest.
Treat 50,000 acres per year during a 20-year period.
Allow for increased use of prescribed fire and management of natural fires for restoration objectives.
Engage industry so the cost of restoration is covered by the value of the products removed.
Assure that the science-based and socially-acceptable agreements forged during the last decade result in the implementation of long-term, landscape-scale restoration. Surround and support communities and provide wildlife habitat, recreational resources and ecosystem services.
But as recently reported, noted major players contracted to meet theses forest restoration goals are engaged in a legal dispute which makes their future collaboration unlikely. While a legal dispute between two former partners is not news in and of itself, a lack of progress on forest restoration is of great concern to all of us in Flagstaff and northern Arizona. As of October 2015, it has been stated that a little over 5,000 acres have been thinned. This is in stark contrast to the above stated goal of thinning 50,000 acres a year.
While the concept of convening a diversified group of disparate stakeholders to develop a comprehensive forest restoration plan is laudable, the results have been tepid at best. Years have gone by with no real results, yet all the while the very forests needing to be managed are at higher and higher risks. This puts us all at rick. While many close to the initiative claim the issues are all driven by monetary concerns, this is not true for the vast majority of us directly affected by this issue. For those of us living here it is not about money, but rather about a responsibility and stewardship of what we have been entrusted with.
The Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance will be taking a leadership role on this issue in 2016. The goal being to activate real time, common sense solutions to meet the needs of our community. We encourage all to help on this project.