The recent public comment period for the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project yielded more than 500 issues for managers to consider. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, many local residents voiced concerns about how the large-scale forest-thinning project will be monitored.
Work is set to take place on more than 15,000 acres in the Dry Lake Hills north of Flagstaff, and on Mormon Mountain south of Lake Mary. Both are popular recreation areas as well as habitat for the endangered Mexican spotted owl.
Erin Phelps is the project’s manager. She says many of the comments addressed oversight of the contractors carrying out the work.
“Just knowing that it’s Flagstaff’s backyard, we know that there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny from the public. It behooves us to pay attention to what the contractor is doing. With a project like this we anticipate a daily basis — pretty much walking side by side with the contractor through this project,” Phelps says.
Other comments reflected concern about the aesthetic impacts to the forest, effects on recreation and erosion from cable logging.
The $10 million project is the result of a 2012 voter-approved measure to protect the city’s watershed from catastrophic wildfire and flooding. The Forest Service proposed four options for the work ranging from large-scale tree thinning to less aggressive treatments.
The Forest Service is currently drafting a final plan to be released in the spring. The project is expected to take several years to complete.