By Tammy Gray
Navajo County is seeking support from Washington, D.C., to keep forest thinning efforts underway in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
The board of supervisors adopted a resolution on Tuesday asking the Arizona Congressional delegation, the chief of the U.S. Forest Service and the Secretary of the Interior to “politically and financially support forest management efforts in Arizona.”
As part of the resolution, Navajo County is asking federal officials to ensure that commercial harvesting operations will continue to have access to the forest once the White Mountain Stewardship contract expires later this year.
The resolution states, “…although the White Mountain Stewardship contract will be completed in August 2014, treatments must continue in Arizona’s national forests, and the region’s forest industries need a reliable and steady wood supply to sustain the investment and maintain the jobs created in the last nine years.”
Noting that industries have invested millions of dollars to clear excessive growth from the forests, and that clearing is necessary to prevent massive wildfires, the supervisors called on the Forest Service to take whatever action is necessary to open up additional acreage to harvesters.
“…(T)he White Mountain Stewardship Contract led to industries investing millions of dollars in infrastructure to harvest and utilize forest restoration projects which, in turn, reduced the cost to the federal government for forest restoration treatments,” the resolution notes. It goes on to say, “…these stakeholders agree that the U.S. Forest Service must commit the resources and reforms necessary to implement landscape‐scale forest thinning and to provide harvest‐ready acres on a consistent basis for existing and emerging industry in Arizona.”
A memo to the board explains that some operators are already having difficulty obtaining enough wood from the Apache-Sitgreaves. The resolution also points out that the six largest wildfires in Arizona have occurred within the last 12 years, and are fed by overgrown forests that have not been properly managed. According to the supervisors’ resolution, it is far more cost effective to have private industry remove overgrowth than to spend taxpayer money to harvest wood from the forests.
Additionally, the memo points out that these private industries rely on the Forest Service for access to their products.
“The forest management industry relies on treatable acres in national forests, which are made available by the U.S. Forest Service, to provide an adequate wood supply for their products and services. Shortages of treatable acres means interrupted work flow and profitability for the forest management industry, which cause instability and insolvency in the industry that affects not only those working in the industry, but surrounding communities as well,” the memo states. “There is great concern among members of the existing forest industry and local Forest Service officials, that there will not be enough treatable acreage available in the coming years, particularly in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. Several members of the forest management industry are already challenged with having sufficient supplies of wood fiber from the forests.”
Board members unanimously approved the resolution.
In other action Feb. 25, the board:
* Approved a special use permit for an archery shop at 194 Mormon Trail Road in Winslow.
* Approved a memorandum of agreement with the Hopi Tribe for road maintenance activities.
* Approved a revised workers compensation policy that more clearly defines reporting and treatment requirements for on-the-job injuries for county employees and volunteers.
* Approved funding the employee annual leave buy-back program.
* Proclaimed the week of April 6-12 as Navajo County Crime Victim Rights Week.
* Adopted a resolution naming Navajo County as a partner in the Arizona Department of Veterans Services plans to commemorate the Vietnam War.
* Approved a professional services agreement with Ellen Grabarek for dental hygiene services.
* Re-appointed Wendell DeCross to the county planning and zoning commission.
The next regular board meeting is scheduled at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 11, at the county complex in Holbrook.
By Tammy Gray