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We at KNAU know that northern Arizona wildfire information is crucial to our listeners. This page is our comprehensive source for information about the 2014 wildfire season. Here you will find all the latest updates from area fire agencies and national forests as well as wildfire-oriented stories.For breaking news tips, call the KNAU newsroom at (928) 523-4912 or e-mail ryan.heinsius@nau.edu.

Public Comment Period for the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project Nears End

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Ryan Heinsius
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The public comment period for a major forest-thinning project in the Flagstaff area will end Mon, Aug. 18. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the project could involve heavy thinning in some of Flagstaff’s most picturesque areas.

In 2012, voters approved $10 million to fund the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project. The multi-year operation would thin key parts of the Coconino National Forest close to the city where the after effects of wildfire would be particularly devastating for local neighborhoods and the water supply.

Forest managers aim to treat about 7,500 acres of dense forest in the Dry Lake Hills north of Flagstaff. About 3,000 acres on Mormon Mountain southeast of the city are also part of the proposal.

The project’s manager, Erin Phelps, compares the potential fallout from a large wildfire in both locations to the widespread flooding that occurred in the Timberline neighborhood after the Schultz Fire.

“Just imagine that in the city of Flagstaff. There’s just so many more homes and businesses, the hospital, the schools. It’s hard to fathom how great those impacts would be on this side of the mountain,” Phelps says.

The Forest Service is proposing four options ranging from no action, to conventional hand-thinning, to more intensive treatments using cable logging and helicopters. Phelps says the final project will likely involve a mixture of techniques and could take up to 10 years to complete. She also says the Forest Service doesn’t have a preferred option, and will base the project largely on public comment.

The Forest Service estimates work on the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project will begin in the spring of 2015. The public may comment on the possible treatment alternatives through Mon, Aug. 18. See www.flagstaffwatershedprotection.org to make a comment and see information regarding the plans.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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