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SRP Forest Thinning Project Ramps Up in Northern Arizona

Ryan Heinsius

The Salt River Project is continuing a forest-thinning initiative at several sites throughout northern Arizona. Company representatives and officials say it’s crucial for watershed health and to prevent catastrophic wildfires. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The project partners SRP with private businesses, the U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies and non-profits. Officials will thin 50,000 acres of public land over the next five years, and say it’ll make the watershed of the Verde and Salt rivers more resilient to fire. The project will also improve the reliability of drinking water for the Phoenix area.

Credit Ryan Heinsius
A site west of Flagstaff recently thinned as part of the SRP project.

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake recently joined other officials for an update at a thinning site near Flagstaff.

"It’s the imperative. We have to protect these forests from catastrophic fire … Having these kind of partnerships that are innovative are the only way we’re going to do it. It’s going to take a lot of outside-the-box thinking," Flake says.

According to SRP, the project will also restore wetlands and improve habitat. The company is experimenting with generating electricity using the forest debris at its Coronado Generating Station. However, officials say recent tests have shown the so-called biomass is far more expensive than coal power. 

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered 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 Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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