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Navajo firewood program expands from Arizona to Colorado

Two men stand near a large truck loaded with logs, in a snowy forest.
Abe Proffitt / San Juan National Forest
Forest Service employees with two loaded log trucks

The “Wood for Life” program supplies firewood from recently thinned forests to homes on the Navajo Nation. It’s now expanding from Arizona to Colorado. The pilot program will supply more than eighty cords of firewood from the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado to the Chinle Chapter House in northeastern Arizona.

Many Navajo citizens do not have electricity to heat their homes, and no longer have access to coal from the now-closed Kayenta Mine. Emily Olsen of the National Forest Foundation says there’s a need for firewood. "If you’re an elder, for example, you can’t drive miles and miles to pick up firewood as easily as someone who might be right around Dolores or Bayfield or Durango," she says. "So we’re trying to think about how to be good neighbors and support nearby communities."

The program also benefits forests by making use of small trees cut down to reduce wildfire danger, according to Jake Dahlin of the San Juan National Forest. "Throughout the Southwest, we’re very familiar with wildfire and it’s ever-increasing behavior, and so having this fuel out in the forests, either in log decks or in piles on the ground, that creates additional hazardous fuel loading," he explains.

The program received funding from Weston Backcountry, a Colorado sporting goods store. Americorps volunteers will split and deliver the wood to residents in the Chinle area.

The "Wood for Life" program began on the Kaibab and Coconino national forests in Arizona.

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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