Here’s the whole story from the Payson Roundup. Below is an excerpt.
With Arizona’s worst fire season in history still roaring, oft-delayed plans to use a resurrected timber industry to thin millions of acres of badly overgrown Arizona forests have suddenly gained broad support.
In a flurry of developments last week, the Department Agriculture announced $3.5 million in new funding for the 4-Forests Restoration Initiative, the Forest Service released ground rules for contractors and assorted politicians promised their support.
Environmentalists, scientists, loggers and forest managers have worked for years to create The 4-Forests Restoration Initiative (4-FRI), which hopes to convince a revived logging industry to spend millions on new sawmills and power plants that could turn a profit on the small trees now choking millions of acres of forests.
The group that proposed the effort agreed on a plan to thin millions of acres by leaving most of the remaining big trees and focusing on the trees smaller than 16 inches in diameter, which now form tree thickets across millions of acres.
The Forest Service now supports the plan and last week put out requests for proposals for timber companies interested in bidding on 10-year contracts to thin 300,000 acres in the Kaibab, Coconino, Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves forests.
Ultimately, the project will encompass perhaps a million acres — which is only twice as much as the Wallow Fire consumed. However, by concentrating on areas near forested communities, backers hope that the massive thinning project will provide much greater fire protection for those settlements.
The release of photos from the Wallow Fire effectively underscored the value of that strategy. Some of the photos show that thinned areas stopped the fire in many places.