Working Draft: Stage 2 – reviewed by a small group of stakeholders and subject matter experts

Vision – Healthy forests that: 

Ecosystem Vision 

  • Are resilient to effects of climate change impacts, drought, severe wildfire, and insect and disease infestation 
  • Mitigate greenhouse gas and air pollutants emissions from severe wildfire, continue to sequester carbon 
  • Provide landscape-scale habitat and connectivity that sustains wildlife, fisheries and forest biodiversity, and provides needed ecosystem service 
  • Have a naturally occurring interval of low-intensity ground fire as a part of functioning and healthy southwest forest ecosystems.  

Community Vision  

  • Support healthy, vibrant, and safe communities and lives 
  • Provide most surface water supplies, ecosystems services and functions to millions of residents across Arizona 
  • Preserve our valuable natural resources and provide diverse and responsible recreational opportunities 

Economic Vision 

  • Improve water quality while lessening water treatment and facility costs  
  • Utilize water and streamflow that generates hydroelectric energy from existing sources
  • Create and sustain a healthy and robust forest product industry, job creation, and economic opportunities in Arizona communities 
  • Attract tourists who spend billions of dollars throughout the state   

Policy Vision 

  • Are managed by multiple land management agencies cooperatively – through shared stewardship – (U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Bureau of Land  Management, National Park Service, State Land, Private Land) 

Key Challenges: 

Ecosystem Challenges 

  • Overstocked, dense, unhealthy forests resulting from decades of fire suppression
  • Threats of large, high-severity wildfire and post-wildfire impacts 
  • Increased invasive vegetation and noxious weed encroachment  
  • Unhealthy forests and chronic drought heighten: 

○ Insect and disease infestations

○ Severe wildfire threats and wildfire emissions (greenhouse gases, air pollutants) ○ Water quality degradation and reduced water quantity 

○ Loss of iconic species including Saguaro and Ponderosa Pine 

Community Challenge 

  • Need to address wildfire liability, increasing insurance costs and lack of insurance products for homeowners and businesses 
  • Need to proactively protect communities, businesses, and neighborhoods from fire damage and post-fire flooding impacts 
  • High-severity wildfire smoke emissions cause significant health issues for at-risk populations
  • Need to assess potential loss of property value and habitat values due to wildfire  Economic Challenges 
  • Need to rapidly increase the and scale of forest restoration due to the lack of local forest  products industry capacity and related startup and investment costs  
  • Need to develop additional economic, sustainability and financial incentives for partners to  invest in forest restoration, resulting in more successful and larger scale forest restoration efforts to deal with climate change and severe wildfire  
  • Expand Conservation Finance (CF) opportunities and pilot projects  

Policy Challenge 

  • Need for modernization among multiple land management agencies and local, regional and  national policy  
  • Long term partner and agency capacity and funding needs  

All of which results in: 

Ecosystem Consequences 

  • Reduced stability of carbon stocks and loss of forest as carbon ‘sinks’ 
  • Loss of contiguous habitat that sustains wildlife, fisheries and forest biodiversity
  • Loss of ecosystem service  

Community Consequences 

  • Loss of lives, communities, and livelihoods, and quality of life 
  • Increased threat of costly wildfires, drought-induced tree mortality and post-fire floods that  threaten our homes and businesses – high costs associated with these events (i.e. Bill Williams  Mountain flooding).  
  • Threats to the quantity and quality of drinking water for the majority our residents (or at least  increased costs of treatment and damage to water infrastructure) 
  • Damage to critical infrastructure and property and community well-being  
  • Threats to at-risk populations from severe wildfire smoke emissions  

Economic Consequences 

  • Loss of our valuable natural resources and recreational opportunities, impacting local and state  economies 
  • Loss of property value from severe wildfire

Potential actions we could take:  

Ecosystem Actions 

  • Perform landscape-scale forest restoration including forest thinning, prescribed burning, and  non-native and invasive species management, and stream and riparian restoration work
  • Perform sediment and soil erosion management to improve watershed resiliency
  • Support habitat improvement, enhancement and connectivity projects  
  • Assessment and communication of carbon storage in forests, impacts of climate change, and  forest restoration and carbon benefits 

Community Actions 

  • Develop and implement smoke mitigation strategies for at-risk populations 
  • Improve statewide stakeholder understanding of where drinking water comes from, existing  forest conditions, need for restoration, benefits and the importance of healthy forests (ecosystem services and in addition to the important economic role healthy forests play) Economic Actions 
  • Increase existing capacity and attracting new forest products industry, with appropriate incentives in place 
  • Invest in and implement forest product industry and prescribed fire workforce training 
  • Invest in advancement of wood and biomass utilization and technology 
  • Invest in infrastructure including road and rail to enable removal of wood and biomass material 
  • Balance public and private investment to address healthy forest issues – public investment alone is insufficient 

Policy Actions 

  • Engage in national, regional and local level forest health discussions and collaborative decision making 
  • Implement shared stewardship and integrated decision-making of all forested lands within Arizona  
  • Support policy making that increases National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process efficiency to accelerate forest restoration treatments 
  • Support modernization of land management agency policies, practices, and guidelines
  • Promote and support multi-party collaborative and stakeholder restoration and forest industry development efforts (i.e. 4FRI) 
  • Promote long-term capacity and funds needs through return on investment (ROI) messaging
  • Support local and regional efforts for forest work training (e.g. NAU ERI) 

Identify sources of funding to support actions, including: 

  • Investment by private firms in the forest products industry  
  • State matching funds, tax abatement, low interest loans, and loan guarantees
  • Job creation through development of a forest product industry and businesses  
  • State and local tax revenue sources (e.g., the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project) 
  • Continued investment in restoration programs such as Four Forest Restoration Initiative and  others 
  • Conservation finance mechanisms and incentive programs focused on ecosystem services
  • USDA Rural Development – loan guarantee opportunities for forest products industry  

Project Leads: 

  1. Elvy Barton, Salt River Project 
  2. Rebecca Davidson, National Forest Foundation 
  3. Oliver Adams, Mother Road Brewing Co. 

Contributors: 

  1. 4 Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) 
  2. Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management  
  3. Arizona Game and Fish Department  
  4. City of Flagstaff  
  5. Coconino County  
  6. Mother Road Brewing Co. 
  7. Northern Arizona University – ERI  
  8. National Forest Foundation 
  9. Salt River Project 
  10. The Nature Conservancy  
  11. U.S. Forest Service New Mexico Regional Office

Last Revised: February 25, 2021

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