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New Arizona Legislature Committee To Address Wildfires, Forests

KNAU | Angela Gervasi

The Arizona Legislature has established an ad hoc committee focusing on forest and wildfire management. 

Lawmakers announced Monday that state Rep. David Cook of Globe will chair the bipartisan committee. It comes after more than 180,000 acres burned in the Telegraph Fire alone this summer south of Globe. It eventually merged with the Mescal Fire, which burned more than 72,000 acres according to data from the Bureau of Land Management.

South of Flagstaff, the lightning-caused Rafael Fire burned more than 78,000 acres over the summer. Last month, post-fire assessments from the U.S. Forest Service warned of high flood risk for people near and downstream from burned areas.

“The state needs the ability to make decisions that are best for Arizona taxpayers and rural communities, and this Committee will help us do that,” Cook said in a statement.

The new committee will work to research potential amendments or changes to laws related to forest ecosystems and wildfire management, the Legislature says.

Republican Representatives Tim Dunn and Gail Griffin will also participate in the committee, along with Democratic Representative Andres Cano and Stephanie Stahl Hamilton. Per Monday’s announcement, no legislators from northern Arizona had been appointed to the committee. 

Meanwhile, earlier this month the Forest Service announced its cancellation of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative’s Phase 2 request for proposals.

The initiative facilitates partnerships between the forest service and wood-processing businesses to implement thinning and restoration efforts. It operates within the Tonto, Coconino, Kaibab, and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests. 

The forest service says the initiative needs to be reevaluated for higher success rates, though the cancellation has drawn criticism from Arizona lawmakers.

“Our communities have endured fires, floods, and loss of property and life while the Forest Service fails in its responsibility to restore our forests to their natural, fire-adapted state,” Ariz. Sen. Mark Kelly said in a statement last week.


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