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Science and Innovations

Forest Service Criticized for Cutting Old-Growth Trees in Eastern Arizona

Joe Trudeau

Stakeholders for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative or 4FRI have complained the U.S. Forest Service cut down two- and three-hundred year old trees in a thinning project in eastern Arizona, contrary to longstanding agreements to protect old growth.  KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The plan for the West Escudilla Restoration Project is separate from 4FRI and it says old, large trees can be cut down in the case of severe disease, for example if they’re infected with dwarf mistletoe.

Joe Trudeau of the Center for Biological Diversity did an analysis that showed 1300 old growth trees had been removed from a 200 acre area near Alpine. He says mistletoe is not a justification. "I’m concerned there’s a back-stepping going on in the commitments by the Forest Service to protect old growth trees as part of forest restoration," he says.

A spokesperson for the Apache Sitgreaves National Forests told KNAU they plan to respond to stakeholders’ concerns by leaving trees with moderate mistletoe infections in future timber sales. Pre-settlement trees with severe infections may still be cut if they pose a risk to forest health.

According to the restoration plan, about a quarter of the West Escudilla project is infected with mistletoe, but only 1 percent of the area has a severe infection.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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