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KNAU and Arizona News

Landmark forest thinning deal reached


By Howard Fischer

Flagstaff, AZ – Environmental groups and a logging company have reached an
agreement that may be nothing short of unprecedented.

The recent history of logging in Northern Arizona has been marked
by lawsuits and confrontation over the goals of economic
development versus environmental sustainability. The result has
been little actual work -- and the occasional catastrophic fire
that results from forests now overgrown with dense stands of
small trees. This new deal removes an obstacle to American Forest
Restoration Products being able to harvest about a million acres
of these small trees over the next 20 year to process at a new
plant in Winslow into what's called oriented strand board, a type
of waferboard. Ethan Aumack of the Grand Canyon Trust said
environmental groups recognize that the 2.4 million acre forest
does need thinning.

(Based on the size of fires that have occurred recently, we know
we need to be working at much larger scales, at up to 50,000
acres per year, across the Mogollon Rim.)

But it cost about $1,000 to plan and treat each acre, more money
than the Forest Service has to spend.

(So basic math suggests that if we proceed with the current
model, we have a cost-prohbitive need in front of us. We have
hundred of millions of dollars worth of work.)

Aumack said the kind of operation planned in Winslow not only
offsets these costs but creates 600 jobs and should pump $200
million a year into the regional economy.