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

Dec 10, 2018

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.

A recently cut stump dated to 170 years in the West Escudilla project area.
Credit Joe Trudeau

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.