A Partnership to Protect our National Forests - G. Garnett, USFS

Greens Peak Towers


Our national forests are very valuable. Not only are they places of beauty but, we rely on our forests for many items we need to sustain and enhance our lives. Greens Peak is located in the national forest on the Springerville Ranger District of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe has an intrinsic interest in Greens Peak, located near the town of Greer. “These buttes are extremely sacred to the White Mountain Apache Tribe and each individual butte has a sacred name,” explains Apache Tribe Crew Leader, Darren Paxson, lead forestry tech for the White Mountain Apaches. Darren enjoys the view and temperature of Greens Peak. All of the projects he works on have a sacred and cultural importance to the Apaches. 

The USDA Forest Service also wish to protect the communication and lookout tower infrastructure on top of Greens Peak because these towers are very important for transmitting signals to mobile phones and other wireless devices. The fire lookout tower is also very active. This entire infrastructure is also worth more than five hundred million dollars.  

Darren Paxon & Jovan Burnett


In some cases fire is good for a forest but, an unplanned fire will ultimately destroy the communication infrastructure on Greens Peak. Thunderstorms are frequent in the summer monsoon season. But, Greens Peak is thick with stands of timber, woodlands, and grasslands that are very close to the communication tower infrastructure on top of the peak. “There needs to be at least a 300 feet “Fire Break” of defensible space between the communication infrastructure and the line of trees,” explains Silvercultrue Technician, Jacob Gentry, of the Springerville Ranger District for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. Before the project started, there was less than 100 feet of defensible space.

The crew of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, under the leadership of Darren Paxon, has been working hard since Thursday, June 13, 2019 to create a necessary “Fire Break” of defensible space against any future wildfire attacks to defend the communication tower infrastructure. “When Paxon’s crew started the project, there was little or no defensible space,” explains Gentry. “Our goal, is to create a “Fire Break” of defensible space by Labor Day,” said Paxon. His crew is also completing a thinning detail past the edge of the trees, into the forest and placing the thinned trees into piles to be burned when the threat of fire season diminishes.

Greens Peak View


Darren Paxon  has more than 14 years’ experience working with wildland fire. He says, "Our commitment is to work with the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests to achieve a healthy and resilient landscape both now and for generations to come." The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests strives to continuously improve how we create, maintain and improve tribal relations while promoting diversity and inclusion within the agency. In doing so, we will move towards fulfilling our treaty obligations, meet our trust responsibilities, and find new opportunities to work together in shared stewardship.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe, and Region 3 of the USDA Forest Service are not taking any chances of having this area destroyed by wildfire. They have entered into a partnership to protect Greens Peak and several other project areas including: West Escudilla, Rim Lakes, Larson, Upper Rocky Arroyo, Timber Mesa, Vernon WUI, Rim Country EIS, Black River, Wallow West and various other projects.

This partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the Tribe is mutually beneficial and will provide the Tribe’s Reserved Treaty Rights Lands (RTRL) forestry crew with hands-on forest restoration experience while completing high priority Tribal restoration projects on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Lands.