US Senate Bill Aims to Speed Up Arizona Forest Restoration

Jun 14, 2019

A new bill in the U.S. Senate aims to speed up forest treatment projects on hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land in Arizona. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

A pile ponderosa pine logs cut during a recent forest thinning treatment in the Ft. Valley area of the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff.
Credit Ryan Heinsius

Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally introduced the Accelerating Forest Restoration Act yesterday. It would reclassify some small-diameter ponderosa pines and other thinning material as low or no-value, and exempt it from the current export ban on whole logs cut from federal lands.

McSally spoke at a Senate Committee hearing Thursday.

"There’s so much with the low-level biomass that’s just not usable and so much of the red tape … We’re introducing legislation today … which will direct the Forest Service to develop alternative harvesting procedures more suited for the low-value restoration byproduct that’s coming off of Arizona’s forests," she said.

McSally says the bill will speed up the pace of restoration efforts to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. The Coconino County Board of Supervisors has given its support to the bill along with the Nature Conservancy of Arizona.

The Forest Service will soon begin the bidding process for phase two of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative that’ll thin 500,000 acres in the state. The large-scale project has faced challenges for years in finding profitable markets for material taken from local forests.