Wildfire, flood risks spur forest thinning near Flagstaff

Posted: Updated:
(Source: Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project) (Source: Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project)

A project to thin the forests of overgrown trees and brush around Flagstaff will expand this year to reduce the risk of wildfires and flooding.

The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project is spending its fifth year logging more acres near Flagstaff neighborhoods and recreation sites, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

"(Thinned acreage) has been climbing and should climb dramatically this year," said Flagstaff District Ranger Mike Elson of the Forest Service.

Flagstaff and U.S. Forest Service officials say the work in 2017 will include a minimum of 1,300 acres on city, state and national forest land. Last year's effort thinned 885 acres.

Despite delays, forest treatments are "in the ballpark" with plans for the next 10 years or so, Elson said. Cable and helicopter logging might not start until next year, and it could take as much as four years to finish, he said.

The project is partially funded with a $10 million voter-approved bond that requested thinning and prescribed burns to mitigate fire and flooding risks in ponderosa forests. This effort includes the Lake Mary watershed.

Workers will start hand-cutting skinnier trees around springtime.

After May, logging equipment will be used on 400 acres in the Observatory Mesa to match other areas that workers thinned in 2016, said project operations specialist Matt Millar of the city of Flagstaff.

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