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Posted on: November 10, 2021

Coconino County Applauds Forest Service for New 4FRI Strategy

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Coconino County participated in a meeting yesterday convened by U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema with support from Senator Kelly and Congressman Tom O’Halleran regarding the future of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI).

With the cancellation of the Phase 2 of the 4FRI process by the Forest Service about two months ago, the Senator invited the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Randy Moore to address the future of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) and other forest restoration projects impacting Coconino County. The County Board of Supervisors have identified wildfires and post-wildfire flooding as the greatest public safety threats in the County. 

During the event, Chief Moore announced a commitment of $54 million dollars in fiscal year 2022 to accelerate the needs for implementing high-priority projects on 135,000 acres over the next 10 years and to ensure the success of 4FRI. The key decisions from the 4FRI Restoration Strategy are:  

  • Immediately prioritize and expand the highest-priority, partnership projects to significantly reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire to communities on approximately 135,000 acres (i.e. Bill Williams Mountain, Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project, CC Cragin, Sierra/Anchas).
  • Immediately implement current plans that provide approximately 300,000 acres over 20 years to maintain existing industry.
  • Treat 86,000 acres using prescribed fire and non-commercial thinning on the Tonto and Kaibab National Forests (over 20 years).
  • Conduct a rapid assessment and optimization effort using the best available science to assess approximately 300,000 - 350,000 acres (over 20 years) on the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests, with treatments assessed to prioritize which acres to treat to reduce the risk of wildfire with those acres ready to move forward beginning in FY2023.
  • Focus on resolving and improving conditions for industry success by addressing factors like cost and risk reduction, incentives, market conditions, availability of raw material, transportation plans, and fire liability risks.

Coconino County Supervisor Patrice Horstman, District 1 noted after the meeting, “This is a significant investment from the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Coconino County now has a unique opportunity to engage with the Forest Service to prioritize and restore critical forested acres, which will significantly reduce the threat of wildfire and post-wildfire flooding to our communities. Without forest restoration, the threat of wildfire and post-wildfire flooding will remain Coconino County’s greatest public safety threats.”

Coconino County has positioned itself to partner with our region’s National Forests to capitalize on the funding opportunities in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, recently passed by Congress. Coconino County Flood Control District has already partnered with the Kaibab National Forest and the National Forest Foundation to implement forest restoration on Bill Williams Mountain as part of the County’s Forest Restoration Initiative. The Project aims to reduce the threat of wildfire and post-wildfire flooding in the City of Williams, a key “Gateway to the Grand Canyon.” 

Coconino County, through its Flood Control District, continues to work with our federal partners to prioritize forest restoration projects within critical watersheds across the County. Jay Smith, Coconino County Forest Restoration Director, said “we need to expand our shared stewardship partnership with Coconino National Forest to address steep slope acres on the western flank of the San Francisco Peaks within the upper Rio de Flag watershed. Not doing so will continue to place much of Flagstaff at risk for severe and repetitive post-wildfire flooding that would greatly exceed what has been experienced from the Museum Fire.” The Flood Control District is committed to working with all three forests within the County on prioritizing other acres that, if burned will produce significant post-wildfire flooding.  

Coconino County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt Ryan, District 3, emphasized, “We are thankful for the efforts of Senator Sinema, Senator Kelly, and Congressman O’Halleran for their work in convening this meeting. We continue to look for opportunities to leverage local Flood Control District tax dollars with federal dollars to advance forest restoration around our high-risk communities. A continued, systematic investment in forest restoration is essential to mitigate against future threats that, unfortunately with the Museum Fire and flooding, are all too familiar. Proactive restoration efforts reduce the threat to life and safety, and ensure our communities are resilient within our fire adapted ecosystem.”  

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