By Nick Worth
Work on the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) Phase One contract is expected to increase in 2014 with new task orders to be issued and work completed on the existing orders, according Dick Fleishman, assistant team leader for the project.
“We’re looking at putting out another 22,000 acres of task orders in the coming fiscal year, through Sept. 30,” said Fleishman. “Some of the orders are on the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves forests, but the bulk of it will be on the Coconino.
“We’re anticipating that Good Earth Power (GEP) will get most of the 15,000 acres from last year, once the ground is better,” Fleishman continued. “It’s too muddy for them to work right now. It’s not good for the resource, so we actually have them not work.”
He said the contractors can make that determination themselves, “but if they don’t we can step in and stop work.”
Fleishman noted that work in the forest usually starts in mid-April and runs through the middle of November.
“Some winters we can work all winter,” he said. “More often than not the operators on our contracts just stop work, because if they mess it up they have to fix it and that costs them money.”
“From our perspective, Good Earth Power AZ expects to get the remaining 2013 task orders open this spring, weather permitting, and make significant progress once the weather does improve,” said GEP spokesperson Lori Martinek, owner and principal of ED/c Partners.
Also coming up in 2014 is the draft record decision on the 4FRI Environmental Impact Statement.
“It should be out by July 2014,” said Fleishman. He said the EIS is for the first million acres the project is analyzing in the 4FRI area, and “encompasses the entire South Kaibab and the north end of Coconino National Forest.”
Fleishman said work is underway on the Mercer task order in the Tonto National Forest and he added the White Mountain Stewardship Contract on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests would be terminating this year.
“We’re also doing a lot of work that is 4FRI related with the White Mountain Stewardship Contract,” he continued. “We’ve been trying to get the timber industry re-established across the forest this last 10 years. Cutting trees is the only effective tool we have to control fire.”
Fleishman said fire would still be part of the equation in forest management.
“We need to thin the trees so that when we do have fires, they’ll burn down below instead of in the canopies,” he explained.
According to Fleishman, the phase one 4FRI contract “is just a part of what we’ve been doing.”
He said another large EIS is being prepared which should be ready in three to four years, which will cover the rest of the 4FRI area, including the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, the south end of Coconino National Forest and part of Tonto National Forest.
Ongoing data collection is also part of 4FRI, Fleishman said.
He also noted that a recent timber sale had been completed and another 15,000 acres of additional timber activity will be started up across the forests.
“We’re going to be doubling what we’ve been doing for the last 10 years,” Fleishman said. “We have a lot of activity going on.”
Good Earth Power is also moving forward with its new office. According to Martinek, the Flagstaff office is on track to open this month.
She also noted that the 4FRI Stakeholders Group has a delegation in Washington, D.C., this week, which includes members of the stakeholders group, GEP, The Campbell Group and the Forest Service.
“It’s a trip that they apparently make each year,” Martinek said. “GEP and TCG were invited to participate this year.”
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By Nick Worth