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$200 million bond issued to ramp up forest restoration in northern Arizona

NewLife Forest Restoration
Ryan Williams Photography
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A worker processes wood from local thinning projects at NewLife Forest Restoration's sawmill facility near Bellemont. The company is hoping a $200 million bond recently issued by Goldman Sachs through the Arizona Industrial Development Authority will help it ramp up work on the 2.4-million-acre Four Forest Restoration Initiative.

The company tasked with thinning hundreds of thousands of acres of northern Arizona’s forests has been issued a $200 million bond to ramp up work. It comes as large-scale restoration in the region has moved at a slow pace for nearly a decade.

Goldman Sachs issued the bond to NewLife Forest Restoration. It’s included in what’s known as the U.S. green bond market, and mandates specific targets for thinned acreage every year.

NewLife holds the nation’s largest U.S. Forest Service stewardship contract at 300,000 acres for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. But the company has struggled to keep up with the pace and scale of the thinning work averaging only about 1,700 acres annually for the last nine years. Under the bond, NewLife’s targets will be 8,000 acres this year, ramping up to 20,000 by 2025, though the company hopes to thin more when it reaches full operation.

NewLife says the funds will help ramp up thinning work by allowing the completion of its facility in Bellemont that opened last year, and increasing capacity at its Lumberjack sawmill near Heber.

4FRI is one of the nation’s largest forest restoration projects and aims to eventually thin 2.4 million acres across the Coconino, Kaibab, Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers 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 frequent contributor to NPR.