Forest Service Holding Meetings On 4FRI Restoration Goals
Last year, I went in a helicopter out into the forest to find out what’s being done to prevent catastrophic wildfires.
Ron Klawitter, a water strategy analyst with the Salt River Project, showed me how the state’s ponderosa forests may never recover after a wildfire hits.
"The dense forest is beautiful, but when I look at it, it really gives me anxiety because I know what might happen if a fire starts in that area," he said.
He also said, "some areas that may have been ponderosa pine originally, and then burn at a high intensity, you may never see ponderosa pine there again.”
That’s why the U.S. Forest Service started the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI, which aims to thin more than 1 million acres of forest in about a 2.4 million acre area stretching across the region.
Thinning overgrown forests brings them back to their natural state, so trees don’t have to compete for water and light and makes them less vulnerable to fast-spreading wildfires.
The thinning is done with prescribed burns and with big machinery, like James Perkins’ crew did outside of Flagstaff last year.
“Now, you got these smaller trees, if you look out there you can see a 4-inch tree and then right over here you can see a 16-inch tree, they’re the same age," he said. “Like fish in a barrel, if you put too many fish in a barrel, their heads are big and their bodies are small because they’re too crowded.”
Now the Forest Service is holding a series of public meetings to present some alternative plans to stakeholders as to how they can meet their forest restoration goals.
The 4FRI Rim County project includes 1.2 million acres of National Forest spanning from Blue Ridge and Happy Jack, all the way to Payson and Show Low. And they’re looking for public input to help them shape their plans. I spoke with Annette Fredette, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative Planning Coordinator with the US Forest Service in Flagstaff.
The first public meeting is tonight in Payson.
But before they can start their restoration efforts, they have to go through a federal approval process called a National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. And that is estimated to be completed in early 2019.