Forest Service Releases Details of Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project

Jul 1, 2015

After an environmental analysis and a public comment period, Coconino National Forest managers have outlined the details of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s designed to prevent the effects of wildfire and flooding from threatening the city’s water supply.

About 5,700 acres in the Dry Lake Hills near Flagstaff will be thinned as part of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project. Work will begin in 2016, but steep-slope treatments including helicopter and cable logging could begin as soon as 2017.
Credit Ryan Heinsius

The proposed work will take place over several years on Mormon Mountain and the Dry Lake Hills. Crews will treat most of the 10,500 acres with ground machinery and other specialized equipment.

Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project manager Erin Phelps says it’ll improve forest health and fire resiliency.

“You’ll have more openings, the wildlife will be able to move between the trees more easily, you’ll have a lot more diversity in biology up there,” Phelps says.

Phelps says cable logging will be used on about 400 acres of steep slopes in the Dry Lake Hills. The plan also establishes a permanent campfire ban in the area.

As part of the proposal, biologists will monitor its impacts on the endangered Mexican spotted owl. The animals inhabit old-growth trees throughout several thousand acres of the area set to be treated.

The project will be finalized this fall and work is slated to begin in 2016.