Arizona thinning projects

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 23 09:13:34 EST 2004


July 20, 2004  Arizona Daily Sun

Forest Service: Ariz. contract good example of forest restoration

By ANANDA SHOREY of the Associated Press

PINETOP-LAKESIDE (AP) -- Bush administration officials touring an area
burned by the largest wildfire in Arizona history say it is a prime
example of how land can be restored after big fires, and protected
from future ones.

Jim Connaughton, President Bush's senior environmental policy adviser,
and Mark Rey, the Agriculture Department undersecretary who oversees
the U.S. Forest Service, toured the areas devastated by the
Rodeo-Chediski fire in 2002 to see what has been done for
rehabilitation and prevention here. The fire charred more than 460,000
acres and destroyed nearly 500 structures.

Officials also were shown what the local Forest Service plans to do
when a contract for logging being offered by the administration is
granted by the end of July.

"The grade I would assign now will be an 'A' for effort," Rey said.
"This is the definition of being on the right track."

At least 150,000 acres of land in eastern Arizona will be thinned here
under a 10-year contract. It is one of about 60 contracts planned
nationwide this year. The one here is the largest to date, and Forest
Service officials hope it will serve as an example for future
contracts.

"This forest is probably six months to a year ahead of the rest of the
Forest Service.

This is cutting edge stuff," Rey said. 

Under the so-called "stewardship" contracts, the Bureau of Land
Management and Forest Service will allow contractors to cut large and
commercially valuable trees in exchange for clearing smaller, more
fire-prone trees and brush.

The contracts, which are part of Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative,
will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, strengthen forest
resistance to insects and disease and provide more diverse habitats
for wildlife by returning the forest to a more healthy state, said
Connaughton.

He said they will also allow for more restoration with less cost to
the taxpayers.

The long-term contracts will expedite thinning and avoid potentially
dangerous delays to thinning projects, Connaughton said. The
contracts, however, are still subject to environmental regulations.

That hasn't eased the concerns of environmentalists though. 

"From our perspective, we believe that many forests, many ponderosa
pine forests, could benefit from small tree thinning and to the extent
that stewardships will promote that, we're in favor of that," said
Erik Ryberg, the southwest public lands advocate for the Center for
Biological Diversity.

"We're not in favor of an amorphous contract that will give
unspecified areas of national forest to the timber industry without
any review from the public."

Ed Collins, a district ranger for the Apache-Sitgreaves National
Forest, said the 150,000 acres proposed for thinning represents a
small percentage of the 2.2 million-acre forest.

"It is a very small sliver. But when you look at the opposition, you
would think it is the end of the world," he said.

Comment from poster: Their idea of "small tree thinning" is to remove
trees that have no economic value, even though there are too many of
those 10-14" dbh trees too. I also have to assume that Mr. Ryberg just
didn't read the contract. That is public information and just because
he doesn't understand it, he should assume the worst. 150,000 acres is
quite a bit though, and specifics should be right there in black and
white. I do not advocate "stealth tactics" from either side. The
public must know and understand what we're doing with public lands.

Larry,    thinning is winning the war on drought



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