National forest managers in Arizona have been working for many years to reduce the threat of high-intensity, potentially-destructive wildfires to neighboring communities through a variety of means. These have included using prescribed fires and mechanically thinning trees to restore forests. While these projects have been successful, the acres treated have not been sufficient to significantly reduce the threat of large-scale fires.
At the same time forest managers have been working to reduce fire risk, other agencies, organizations, and members of the public have become increasingly informed about the importance of healthy forests to everyone in the state. There is increasing understanding that dense, over-stocked forests are not a natural condition and that they set the stage for insect and disease outbreaks, high-intensity wildfires, and conditions that are unsustainable for our forested ecosystems. The Statewide Strategy for Restoring Arizona’s Forests and the creation of the Arizona Forest Health Council came about because of the efforts and dedication of many parties to address these issues. These advances demonstrate broad support in Arizona to develop and implement landscape-scale restoration efforts that will protect communities and improve forest health and sustainability. Such efforts should also provide economic opportunities to local communities by utilizing the excess biomass.
The overall goal of the four-forest effort is to create landscape-scale restoration approaches that will provide for fuels reduction, forest health, and wildlife and plant diversity. A key objective is doing this while creating sustainable ecosystems in the long term. Appropriately-scaled businesses will likely play a key role in the effort by harvesting, processing, and selling wood products. This will reduce treatment costs and provide restoration-based work opportunities that will create good jobs.
An analysis area of 2.4 million acres was identified within the consensus agreement of the collaborative Analysis of Small Diameter Wood Supply in Northern Arizona, which was completed in early 2008. Because of the large-scale nature of the restoration, implementation could lead to as many as 50,000 acres per year being treated over a 10-year period. These acres are above and beyond acres already being treated on an annual basis on the four forests. The first environmental assessment will assess about 750,000 acres of ponderosa pine vegetation on the Coconino and Kaibab forests.
What is 4FRI?
Arizona forests are about to take the spotlight in the largest forest restoration effort of its kind. Some 2.4 million acres of the Kaibab, Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests are being identified for a landscape scale assessment to improve forest health and sustainability.
What are the goals of 4FRI?
The goals of the 4FRI are to 1) accelerate large restoration efforts to support natural fire regimes, healthy diverse forests and rangelands, and abundant populations of native plans and animals; 2) facilitate community fire protection and preparedness; and 3) enhance local economies through the use of excess trees.
Why do we need a forest restoration initiative?
Recent wildfires, increasing in size and intensity never before witnessed, provide evidence of natural ecosystems in widespread decline. While fire has always helped shape the landscape, today's fires are not those of the past; they are often hotter, more destructive and more dangerous to fight. In part, the reason for the difference is that many of today's forests have unprecedented levels of flammable materials including dense thickets of small trees, underbrush, needles and leaves.
What is an example of ecosystem decline?
The 2002 Rodeo-Chedeski Fire in the White Mountains created a firestorm of devastation – 40 miles wide, nearly half-a-million acres burned, 426 homes and other structures lost – with a price tag of $153 million in suppression costs.