Arizona Forward released its newest primer – “Threats to Forest Health Put Arizona at Risk” – urging statewide attention for treatment and restoration to prevent the devastating fires that have scarred our state’s landscape, tarnished watersheds, depressed the economy and threatened the quality of life for residents throughout the Grand Canyon State.

The nearly 30-page document is written in layman’s terms and includes actions needed now to treat and restore forests to reduce the risk of wildfires and threats to water quality, treatment and restoration efforts, as well as how all Arizonans can engage in this critical issue. It was released at SRP’s “Healthy Forest, Vibrant Economy” forum in Scottsdale for a two-day conference on how to accelerate forest restoration in Arizona. 

“Too many Arizonans believe forest health issues are only relevant to those of us who live in the Northern part of our state,” said Diane Brossart, president and CEO of Arizona Forward. “Forest ecosystems impact everyone who lives here, from Flagstaff to Phoenix and all the way to Tucson and beyond.

“Were it not for the rains we had in June and July of this year, the loss of life and property Californians recently experienced as a result of rampant wildfires could have happened here.” 

Arizona Forward developed the primer, its fourth publication on key sustainability issues facing the state, to provide unbiased facts, background information and viable options to consider as Arizona undertakes efforts to restore and maintain healthy forests.

The primer notes that healthy forests are critical to maintaining a robust economy. “In addition to serving as places of beauty that attract tourism, forests are also custodians of the air and water Arizonans need to survive,” the document states.

Fire is a natural process, but Arizona’s forest are not in a natural state. Years of fire suppression and drought have ushered in the era of the megafire, as the Southwest experienced with the Wallow and Rodeo-Chediski fires.

Among actions outlined in the primer to address forest health are:

·         Forest thinning and prescribed burning

·         Re-establishing a forest products industry

·         Preparing more land for treatment by accelerating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process

·         Support adaptive management of treated forested lands

·         Sediment and soil erosion management

·         Habitat improvement and re-vegetation projects

·         Eliminating “fire borrowing” so that these projects can be fully funded

“Arizonans can contact their elected representatives, and invest their time, talent and finances in the partnerships and organizations that are making a difference in restoring our healthy forests,” said Eric Marcus, executive director of the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative (SEDI) and Chair of Arizona Forward’s Healthy Forest Ecosystems Committee, along with Bruce Hallin of SRP. “Arizonans need to understand that unhealthy forests impact us all – no matter where in the state we live.”