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KNAU and Arizona News

McCain and Flake Call for Ramped Up Forest Treatments in Arizona

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Deborah Lee Soltesz/Coconino National Forest/USFS
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Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have called on the U.S. Forest Service to increase the scale and speed of large forest-thinning projects in the state. They say more work is needed to protect the forests from catastrophic wildfire. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The project of most concern to the senators is the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI. Nearly 2-and-a-half-million acres of the Coconino, Kaibab, Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests will be treated through 4FRI over the next two decades. Private contractors do the tree-thinning work and then use the wood products in a variety of industries.

But Senator Flake says the Forest Service must open up more acreage to those companies for the project to work. He also says 4FRI’s pace has been inadequate.

“Given the enormity of the needed restoration we’ve got to do more. We’ve got to have the Forest Service take steps to ensure that there’s an accurate economic picture of the forest resources there that will attract other folks to come in,” says Flake.

Flake and McCain also question whether 4FRI’s biggest contractor, Good Earth Power AZ, will be able to fulfill its duties. The company has thinned only a fraction of the acreage it committed to in its contract.

Officials with the Forest Service declined to be interviewed for this story. They said in a statement, however, the agency would work to address the senators’ concerns, and collaborate to solve the challenges facing Arizona’s forests.

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