RFP for Thinning in 4FRI Area

A news article, “U.S. Forest Service announces massive RFP to clear out Arizona forests,” describes the RFP here, which has this aim: “At full production, awarded contracts will seek to mechanically thin between 605,000 and 818,000 acres over 20 years within six separate sub-areas located in portions of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Coconino National Forest, Kabab National Forest, and the Tonto National Forest.”

The agency notes that “This is one of the first times the Agency is using the recently authorized 20-year stewardship authority (from the 2018 Omnibus Bill).”

Lots of info from the agency, such as Examples of Desired Conditions after Mechanical Treatments, with images for:

All aged stand
Moderate Site
Group Selection
Artificial Constraints
Variable Spacing Rx

A related article, “Conservation groups help pick up the slack in forest thinning,” says that “Environmentalists, conservation groups and local officials have all united behind the idea of thinning the forest to not only reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires, but improve conditions for wildlife.” Mention only the Wild Turkey Federation.

The article notes that a$1,000-per-acre subsidy, as for the White Mountain Stewardship project, “would cost about $2 billion to accelerate the thinning of the more than 2 million acres in the footprint of 4FRI.” Of course, not every acre needs treatments. But that offers a bit of perspective on the scale of the need.

Thanks to Nick Smith of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities for the link to the article on the RFP.

13 thoughts on “RFP for Thinning in 4FRI Area”

  1. I am continuously disappointed with the repeated comments that tree thinning, and all sorts of projects, “will benefit wildlife”. Rarely is a species, or category (big-game, game birds, or?) mentioned. We are left to conclude that (1) All, or at least most, species of wildlife will benefit from the project in some undetermined way for some undetermined time; or (2) it is just meaningless baffle-gab. It’s really terribly unprofessional. Where do these “biologists” come from? In fact, every activity we do, or choose not to do, affects some species positively and some negatively.

    • Jim, the second linked article said:
      “Lerich said the C.C. Cragin watershed has excellent turkey habitat already – all of it threatened by a megafire. However, a stewardship approach would seek to create a habitat patchwork, including some thick stands of trees, open meadows, healthy riparian areas and a more open, grassy forest. Such a mix benefits most wildlife species, including both turkeys and endangered Mexican spotted owls.”
      It seems logical that intentionally having a variety of habitats/age classes and so on might be good for a wide range of species.

      • I am not familiar with the details of this project. In your comments, you mention 2 species. That is a good start. However, the comments about a mix of habitat types benefiting a variety of species is a generalization. There are also issues of patch sizes, disturbances due to roads, etc., juxtaposition of habitat types, specialized species such as bighorns that require juxtaposed visibility and escape terrain, connected by migration corridors and a secure distance from domestic sheep. If merely providing some sort of mix of habitats is the best we can do, OK. But I find “It’s good for wildlife.” often used as a willy-nilly excuse to busy-fuss with the landscape and hope for the best, usually without really evaluating the results for any one species. Our profession can do better than that. JAB

      • Often the term “wildlife” seems to refer to a particular species that a particular interest group would like to see more of (often because they like to hunt them). Also often, such species tend to be ones that would benefit from open areas or edge areas where removing trees could be beneficial. On national forests, the desired condition is not “a wide range of species” (or maximizing production of game species). It’s what is ecologically sustainable, which by regulation is something within the natural range of variation of species and populations associated with ecological integrity.

        • But if deer and elk are good for shooting, they are also good for wolves and mountain lions to eat (plus young’uns feed grizzlies, coyotes and so on)..
          Many studies seem to show that there is less early-successional habitat than there was historically.
          I think it would be easier to have discussions about what to do or not do if we lost abstractions like “ecologically sustainable” “natural variation of species and populations” and “ecological integrity,” and simply talked about why or why not we want to make an intervention, which creatures will benefit and which will not.

        • I contend that the term “wildlife” is often used as bafflegab to generate support for a project, without a great deal of thought to what species will be enhanced and what species will decline. (Every project has both effects.) or what species should be emphasized. I have already mentioned species with specialized habitat requirements, the issues of patch size, patch juxtaposition and corridors. But I forgot limiting factors. Many variations of ecosystem patterns are “ecologically sustainable”. Also, I am not sure what “ecological integrity” means, and believe most of the public thinks it sounds impressive, but have no idea what it means either. Too often, we try to impress, not to communicate. JAB

          • These terms are the foundation of national forest management under the Forest Service interpretation of the National Forest Management Act – found in 36 CFR §219.8-9. While it might be more entertaining to talk about what if these substantive requirements for national forest management didn’t exist, it should be more productive to talk about how to define and achieve them for a particular piece of land.

  2. It would be best if information that is actually correct was used in these press releases. White Mountain Stewardship treated just shy of 72,000 acres, at a cost of $500/acre, not $1,000/acre.

    • Thanks for the fact-check, Jim. According to a report by Northern Arizona University, per-acre costs on the project have ranged from $300 to $800, averaging around $550.

      Note that the newspaper article said that “the federal government kicked in about $1,000 per acre to offset the cost of dealing with the biomass.”

  3. For Steve: the cost of treatment was ~$500/acre, I was the Forest Sup at the time. Additional $ we’re used in prep, but those $ we’re normal program of work for ANY project.

    For Sharon: White Mountain Stew supplied logs to several small mills, on high-speed HewSaw mill, chips (clean) to a pellet mill (Forest Energy of Show Low) and dirty chips to “Novo-Star/Novo Power”, biomass power provider at Snowflake, AZ.

    There was really nothing left but a small heap of needles (and stumps) at the landings, when they were finished logging.

    • In a December 2010 article on the White Mountain project in The Forestry Source, I wrote:

      “According the ASNF [Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests], treatments to date cost about $480 per acre, on average, which is roughly half of the $800 to $900 per acre costs for treatments carried out before the contract was implemented and currently are the lowest treatment cost for any national forest in the Southwest.”

      Does that include admin costs? “Evaluating the Impacts of Forest Treatments: The First Five Years of the White Mountain Stewardship Project,” prepared for the U.S. Forest Service by The Nature Conservancy, reported that, “ASNF staff, on average, spend approximately $2,550,000 per year in preparing analysis areas for treatments. In order of highest to lowest costs, this includes site marking and preparation ($1,100,000); contract oversight ($600,000); all environmental analyses under NEPA ($450,000); pile burning ($250,000); and program management ($150,000).”

    • Jim, if the TNC study is accurate and there was $250K for pile burning, does that mean certain sites were not accessible for taking material to mills, or didn’t have enough to take or ???? Just trying to get an idea of how that $250K and the “small heap of needles and stumps” fit together.


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