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Posted on: March 21, 2022

Forest Restoration Initiative earns top honors at Arizona Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards

2022 Enviro Excellence Awards

The Coconino County Flood Control District’s Forest Restoration Initiative (FRI) won both the 2021 Governor’s and President’s awards at Arizona Forward’s 40th Annual Environmental Awards Gala on March 19 in Phoenix.

Arizona Forward has hosted the annual Environmental Awards Gala for over 40 years. The awards, which honor creative programs that foster the economic vitality and long-term sustainability of Arizona’s future, recognized the District’s Forest Restoration Initiative as an exemplary sustainability project dedicated to reducing the threat of wildfire and post-wildfire flooding, which are considered by the District to be the greatest public safety threats to the County’s residents and businesses, and which will have devastating economic, and financial impacts on our communities. Arizona Forward’s President & CEO Lori Singleton emphasized that wildfires and post-wildfire flooding are major threats throughout Arizona and are being accelerated by climate change. 

 

“I’d like to thank Arizona Forward for these awards, which acknowledge the critical importance of forest restoration to our County and our state,” said Chair of the Board of Supervisors and Flood Control District Chair Patrice Horstman. “Mitigating the risk of catastrophic wildfire is a top priority because post-wildfire flooding affects everything from public safety and our economy to the quality of the water that many Arizonans drink daily. Our successful Forest Restoration Initiative was created to develop strategies and partnerships that significantly reduce these threats to our communities, and we hope it can serve as a model for other counties across Arizona and the Western United States to emulate.” 

 

Building off of the County’s legacy in flood mitigation following the 2010 Schultz Fire, the District established the Forest Restoration Initiative in 2018. Under the direction of its Forest Restoration Director, FRI uses a science-based approach to identify and restore forest health and address the causes and reduce the risk of post-wildfire flooding within Coconino County. In addition to funding projects that model at-risk watersheds and map the most critical areas for forest restoration, FRI builds partnerships with local industry, non-government organizations, and government agencies to support accelerating restoration efforts that will significantly reduce the likelihood of impacts to County communities and forest resources from catastrophic wildfire and post-wildfire flooding. 

 

Since 2019 the District, through FRI, has partnered with the Kaibab National Forest and the National Forest Foundation on a project to reduce hazardous fuels on the steep slopes of Bill Williams Mountain south of Williams. In addition to mitigating the estimated $365 - $700 million economic threat of wildfire and post-wildfire flooding, the goal of the project is to reduce the threat to public safety and the impacts to the water sources and critical infrastructure of the City of Williams. 

To date, the District has contributed $2.8 million to the Bill Williams Mountain Steep Slope Project, the first two phases of which have thinned 476 acres of densely treed steep slopes as well as removed large amounts of dead and down timber. The District has committed $6 million towards future phases of the project. Steep Slope 3, which will treat an additional 285 acres, is scheduled to begin late this summer or early fall. 

Arizona Forward is dedicated to bringing business and civic leaders together to promote cooperative efforts that improve the environmental sustainability and the economic vitality of Arizona. Since 1980, the organization’s Environmental Excellence Awards Program has served as benchmarks for economic and environmental accomplishments and projects that foster the economic vitality and long-term sustainability of Arizona’s future. 

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