Quantcast
Home / Recent news / Forest Service seeks bids to thin AZ forests, avert wildfires

Forest Service seeks bids to thin AZ forests, avert wildfires

FILE - In this April 28, 2015, file photo, a machine stacks logs in the Coconino National Forest just outside Flagstaff, Ariz. The U.S. Forest Service is seeking proposals to remove dense stands of trees in a wide swath of Arizona to help prevent wildfires. The agency is hoping to accelerate the pace of the work that's part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. It released a request for proposals Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, for parts of the Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, Tonto and Coconino national forests. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca, File)

In this April 28, 2015, file photo, a machine stacks logs in the Coconino National Forest just outside Flagstaff, Ariz. The U.S. Forest Service is seeking proposals to remove dense stands of trees in a wide swath of Arizona to help prevent wildfires. The agency is hoping to accelerate the pace of the work that’s part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. It released a request for proposals Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, for parts of the Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, Tonto and Coconino national forests. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca, File)

The U.S. Forest Service, faced with the slow pace of forest thinning, is seeking proposals to remove dense stands of trees in a wide swath of Arizona to help prevent wildfires.

The work is part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, the largest project of its kind within the Forest Service. It eventually will cover 3,750 square miles along a prominent line of cliffs that divides Arizona’s high country from the desert.

The bidding opened September 16 for work on up to 1,278 square miles in parts of the Kaibab, Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests. The proposals are due December 16. Contracts would be awarded in April.

“The intent of the RFP is to support existing industry, attract new sustainable industry and to significantly increase the pace and scale of forest restoration while creating jobs, restoring our forests, protecting communities and downstream water supplies,” regional forester Cal Joyner said in a written statement.

Those keeping tabs on the project have been frustrated by the pace of the work done so far. The Forest Service set a goal of having 78 square miles mechanically thinned each year, but only about one-third of that has been done on average.

“We all know how underwhelming the results of 4FRI have been,” Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott said at a recent science conference in Flagstaff.

The Forest Service won’t be alone in reviewing the proposals. The Phoenix-based Salt River Project, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, the Arizona Commerce Authority and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation helped develop the bidding materials and will help vet submissions.

Contracts can run up to 20 years, made possible by provisions in 2018 federal legislation on forest management. The bill also allows the Forest Service to give preference to bidders who propose innovative solutions for making forests healthier.

Contractors have struggled to find a market for small-diameter trees, woody debris and other byproducts of mechanical thinning that makes economic sense, especially on the west side of the project area around Flagstaff and Williams. They’ve also been burdened by regulations that require them to weigh all the material and mark every tree, Babbott said.

“They will just not enter the market because there’s limited places to take the product,” said Forest Service spokesman Dick Fleishman.

Some of the material removed from the forest has become pallets, strand board, mulch or mixed with coal to experiment with energy production. The Forest Service said it recognizes that bidders might have to construct mills or other infrastructure to make the contract worthwhile.

The Salt River Project relies on runoff from forests in eastern and northern Arizona to supply water to cities, farms and businesses in metropolitan Phoenix. Without thinning, the forests are more prone to high-intensity wildfires that can harden the ground, sending water, ash, plant material and sediment quickly into reservoirs when it rains.

Bruce Hallin, the SRP director of water supply, said some cities have had to retrofit water treatment plants to ensure that material doesn’t pass through people’s faucets.

“We’re all very concerned that all those forests within our watersheds are highly susceptible to catastrophic wildfire, and conceivably we could lose all those forested lands,” he said.

One comment

  1. This is a crime

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

 

x

Check Also

In this April 30, 2015 file photo, a man fishes for tilapia along the receding banks of the Salton Sea near Bombay Beach, Calif. Work on a multistate plan to address drought on the Colorado River in the U.S. West won't be done to meet a Monday, March 4, 2019 federal deadline. A California irrigation district with the highest-priority rights to the river water says it won't approve the plan without securing money to restore the state's largest lake. The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

California district stalls West drought plan over lake money

The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of Los Angeles created when the Colorado River breached a dike in 1905 and flooded a dry lake bed.