4 Apr 2010, 11:38pm
Latest Forest News
by admin

Biggest thinning project in U.S. set

by CYNDY COLE, Arizona Daily Sun, April 4, 2023 [here]

Planning for the largest forest thinning project in the United States is now under way in the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests.

Forest managers plan to solicit private contractors to begin thinning trees by 2012 or 2013. The area is an 800,000-acre swath from south of Mormon Lake, west into the Kaibab National Forest and north toward Tusayan.

Funding would likely come not from the federal government but from the wood products companies seeking to turn the trees into plywood, wood trim or fuel pellets.

Eventually, this 20-year project aims to thin ponderosa pine on 2.4 million acres across multiple forests along the Mogollon Rim — in line with what forest managers and Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute have said will make the forests healthier and less prone to very intense wildfires.

“It’s going to be the largest restoration project ever attempted,” said Wally Covington, ERI director.

The size of the area to be thinned is key to the project being carried out — without a guaranteed, long-term supply of small-diameter trees, no wood products companies would bid on the thinning, and there is no money in the Forest Service budget to do the job.

Mostly, the trees to be thinned would be 16 inches and smaller, wouldn’t include very old trees (before European settlement), and would be outside of wilderness, steep ravines, or contested areas.

Some areas of the Coconino and neighboring forests now have 40 times more trees than they had before European settlement, grazing and fire exclusion. Those practices increased competition for water, susceptibility to disease and probability of large wildfires.

The forests used to be more open, with wide areas between trees.

Covington has long pushed for large-scale work, and he has since been giving presentations to Forest Service administrators in Washington on the need for such action.

“I’m pretty optimistic that at this scale in 25 years, we can get half of the forest restored,” he said. … [more]

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