By Nick Worth
United States Forest Service officials announced late last week that they expect work on the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) to begin in early June.
According to the Forest Service website at www.fs.usda.gov/4fri, 4FRI is a program designed to “restore the structure, pattern and composition of fire-adapted ecosystems, which will provide for fuels reduction, forest health, and wildlife and plant diversity” on the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto national forests.
The website also states the creation of sustainable ecosystems and industries are key objectives in the plan over the long term.
“Appropriately scaled businesses will likely play a key role in the effort by harvesting, processing and selling wood products,” the website reads. “The restoration-based work opportunities are expected to create jobs across northern Arizona.”
Pioneer Forest Products was chosen as the contractor for the forest thinning initiative on May 18, 2012. The Forest Service awarded a 10-year stewardship contract to Pioneer, which provides for treatment of 300,000 acres over 10 years and is the largest stewardship contract awarded by the USFS.
Following the awarding of the contract, Pioneer announced plans to build a wood products mill in Winslow to make use of the trees that would be harvested in the initiative.
On May 17, the Forest Service announced it anticipates work will begin in early June under the ranch task order, which was released in late April. According to the press release, which was sent from the office of Jacqueline C. Banks, public affairs officer for the Kaibab National Forest, the ranch task order will “provide treatment on approximately 1,000 acres on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests near Show Low.”
The treatment consists of the removal of designated trees over one-inch in diameter and the residue (tops and limbs) in order to meet the desired conditions for the area.
“Due to current market conditions, the contractor–Pioneer Forest Products–may complete the work with multiple entries over 18 months, rather than completing all the work with one entry into the area,” Banks wrote in the release. “The Forest Service is working closely with Pioneer to ensure their operations meet the agency’s needs in the long run.”
Banks also noted that Pioneer will be responsible for road maintenance and erosion control activities, in addition to the removal of the wood.
In an article in March 27 edition of The Tribune-News, Herman Hauck, CEO of Pioneer Associates, said the company was still working on financing for the mill and declined any further comment. Contacted last Friday, Hauck again said he is unable to comment.
“We’re not far enough along to make a statement to the media,” said Hauck. He also declined comment on the anticipated start of work in early June.
In the press release from the Forest Service, Banks wrote, “This (the ranch task order) is the beginning of restoration work that will treat an average of 30,000 acres per year on the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests over the next nine years, and is an important step for the 4FRI–a 20-year plan to restore 2.4 million acres of ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona.”
The Forest Service also cautioned that as 4FRI logging operations begin local residents and visitors “need to be aware of the hazards associated with the logging operation.”
The USFS will give notifications on specific locations and public safety issues once the logging begins in June.
By Nick Worth