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FWPP Final Record of Decision signed Oct 22

Final Record of Decision Signing

City of Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours looks on as Laura Jo West, Coconino National Forest Supervisor, signs the final Record of Decision for the project’s Environmental Impact Statement

Flagstaff, AZ – On October 22, the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project reached another significant milestone when Coconino National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West signed the final Record of Decision for the project’s Environmental Impact Statement. A Signing Ceremony was held for partners and collaborators to celebrate this achievement.  This project is unique in its origin and funding, as it was proposed by the City and is funded by a municipal bond approved by voters in 2012.

– Read to the end for information on what to expect for implementation – 

Since 2013, implementation of fuels reduction treatments have been completed and will continue in areas within FWPP boundaries on City and State lands, as well as National Forest lands that were approved through previous National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses. This final Record of Decision approves treatments on the remainder of the National Forest lands within the FWPP boundary – the majority of the project area – including use of novel harvesting methods to reduce hazardous fuels on the steep slopes above Flagstaff’s key watersheds.

 

The Decision includes treatment of 8,669 acres through a combination of mechanical thinning, hand thinning, and prescribed burning. Prescribed fire will occur on all 8,669 acres, which includes approximately 870 acres that will receive only fire treatments. Traditional, ground-based harvesting equipment will be used for the most of the thinning (5,817 acres). Helicopter and cable logging will occur on small portions of the project area (566 and 414 acres respectively).  These treatments will begin next year. Prep work – including marking trees, improving roads, and preparing contracts – will begin this fall and winter in the Dry Lake Hills area.

 

“This is a monumental occasion of which the entire community should be proud,” says Laura Jo West, Coconino National Forest Supervisor.  “We’re at this point today because of the incredible collaboration among all the partners and the tremendous support we’ve received from the community. We got here together, and we’re excited to continue working together in the next chapter of this exceptional project.”

 

Though prep work is less noticeable than harvesting, the public should still expect to see increased activity in the forest over the next several months.

  • Crews will be marking trees this fall and winter in the Dry Lake Hills area in preparation for implementing Phase 1 of the project next summer.
  • Trees painted with orange indicate these trees are “leave trees” and will not be not cut; however, in some areas blue paint may be used to indicate trees that will be removed. Efforts will be made to minimize markings within viewsheds of roads, trails, and recreation sites.
  • Thinning efforts on City, State, and National Forest lands will continue throughout the project area. This includes small-scale demonstrations of equipment on steep slopes and harvesting in the 891-acre Orion Task Order which is within the FWPP and will be carried-out through the Four Forest Restoration Initiative Phase One Stewardship Contract held by Good Earth Power, LLC.
  • Smoke from prescribed fires will be noticeable from the Flagstaff area. The Coconino NF provides notifications of Forest Service prescribed fires, which can be found on the forest website at coconinonationalforest.us.

 

The Forest Service and City of Flagstaff developed an implementation plan that outlines the general timeline for FWPP treatments to occur. It separates thinning into three phases to maximize efficiency while limiting impacts to aesthetics, recreation, and threatened and endangered species.

 

  • Thinning Phase 1: 1,428 acres. This phase will include treatments on the lower slopes of the Dry Lake Hills north of Flagstaff. Ground-based mechanical harvesting methods will be used. Prep work in these areas will occur this fall and winter, with harvesting expected to begin in 2016.
  • Thinning Phase 2: 3,810 acres. This phase will occur on the steep slopes of the Dry Lake Hills and includes treatments that require specialized equipment such as helicopter and cable logging and steep-slope harvesting equipment. Phase 2 also includes thinning in Mexican spotted owl Protected Activity Centers (PACs) and northern goshawk post-fledging family areas (PFAs), and will be completed in as short a timeframe as possible to limit the duration of impacts. Prep work is expected to occur in 2016 and 2017, with harvesting estimated to begin in 2017 or 2018.
  • Thinning Phase 3: 2,975 acres. This phase covers all the treatments in the Mormon Mountain portion of the FWPP, south of Flagstaff near Lake Mary. Prep work is planned to occur in 2017 and 2018, with harvesting activities expected to begin in 2019.
  • Prescribed fire treatments will occur as conditions allow, typically in the fall and spring.

 

The City of Flagstaff, the USDA Forest Service, and the State of Arizona continue to make FWPP a top priority and will continue to provide the public with updates on the project that Flagstaff voters approved.

 

The Implementation Plan, EIS, and Record of Decision are available on the Forest Service project website at click here

Open Letter to the Community

As the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project continues to move forward, Paul Summerfelt, FWPP Project Manager for the City of Flagstaff, would like to share an update on recent FWPP accomplishments and efforts currently underway to protect our community and surrounding forest. To learn more please view FWPP Open Letter_Nov 14

Equestrian Project – Post Treatment Survey Results

Prior of implementation of the FWPP Equestrian Forest Management Project, residents in Equestrian Estates and University Heights adjacent to the project were mailed notice of the pending 400 acre project which occurred August-September 2014. This project, the first mechanical removals as part of the FWPP, was widely accepted and greatly appreciated by area residents who have recognized the necessity to conduct these much needed forest treatments to protect their neighborhoods and the greater Flagstaff community. Following completion of the project, a second letter with a survey was mailed to these residents asking for their opinion on the project and its benefits. View FWPP Equestrian Project Survey_SUMMARY to see a summary of the survey results and comments provided by respondents.

FWPP Biannual Report (Jan.-June 2014)

In the November 2012 election, City voters overwhelmingly approved (74%) a $10 million dollar bond to fund the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). Forest treatments will occur primarily on federal lands outside of the City, as well as on City and State lands, within City limits; all treatments are designed to reduce the risk of severe wildfire and subsequent post-fire flooding in the Rio de Flag (Dry Lake Hills) and Lake Mary watersheds. This report highlights significant accomplishments in the first half of 2014.

To view the full report, click here: FWPP Biannual Report – Jan to June 2014.

Proposition 405 – 2012 FWPP Exit Poll Fact Sheet

On November 6, 2012, Flagstaff, Arizona voters over-whelmingly approved a $10 million bond — Question 405, “Forest Health and Water Supply Protection Pro-ject” (hereafter the Watershed Project). This municipal bond project, backed by secondary property taxes, will finance up to $10 million to support planning and im-plementation of forest health and water supply protec-tion projects on 14,446 acres of U.S. Forest Service and State lands primarily outside Flagstaff city limits. This bond authorization is the first payment for water-shed services (hereafter water resources) project im-plemented on national forest lands in the United States that was subjected to voter approval and financed through municipal bonds. Exit polling was conducted by Northern Arizona University (NAU) researchers to understand underlying dimensions of voter support or opposition to payments for water resources.

Read the full report HERE.

FWPP Annual Report — A Summary of the First Year

In the November 2012 election, voters approved a 10 million dollar bond to fund the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) to protect forest health, water quality and supply, and the community in the greater Flagstaff area. Forest treatments will occur primarily on federal lands outside the City and state lands within the City, and are designed to reduce the risk of severe wildfire and subsequent post‐fire flooding in the Rio de Flag and Lake Mary watersheds. Some initial on‐the‐ground work has been undertaken and planning is well underway to begin full‐scale implementation of forest treatments within the next year. This report highlights significant accomplishments in the year since

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the measure was passed by 74% of Flagstaff voters.

Click the link below to read the full 2013 FWPP Annual Report.
FWPP Annual Report_2013_

Schultz Pass Road construction and temporary closures begin Wednesday, Oct 23

Contractors are beginning resurfacing work tomorrow on Schultz Pass Road (Forest Service Rd 420). Through Friday, travelers should expect delays of up to 30 minutes, and starting October 28, the southwestern stretch of the road will be closed to all entry Mondays through Fridays. Work is anticipated to last approximately two months.

The closure area will start about ¾ mile from Hwy 180 (where the pavement ends), and will extend to the Schultz Tank Trailhead. The “Y” Trailhead at the confluence of Schultz Pass Rd and Elden Lookout Rd will remain open. Schultz Pass Rd and the Schultz Trailhead will still be accessible from the north via Hwy 89 and Elden Springs Rd (FSR 556). High clearance vehicles are required on Elden Springs Rd and the northern portion of Schultz Pass Rd.

Resurfacing will improve Schultz Pass Rd so it is capable of sustaining logging traffic for the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project. This effort will also result in better driving conditions for the public. Logging activity could begin as early as spring; the nearby Orion Timber Sale is expected to be offered for bid this winter.  

Visitors in the area may have already noticed the orange paint on trees within the Orion Timber Sale, located near FSR420 and the Arizona Trail. These are designated “leave trees”– trees that will not be cut.

The partners of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project will be continuing to move forward with planning and implementing treatments to reduce the risk of severe fire and flooding in the Rio De Flag and Lake Mary watersheds. Some projects that fall within the FWPP geographical boundary, like the Orion Timber Sale, were approved under previous environmental analyses and are ready for implementation. The majority of the project area, however, is currently being analyzed under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Visit www.flagstaffwatershedprotection.org for additional information.

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Press Release: Pilot Project tests logging equipment and slash piling on steep slopes off Schultz Pass Road

Click here to download the printable version of this press release (.docx)
Visit our Flickr page for photos of the Pilot Project

Flagstaff, AZ — As part of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) that was recently approved by City voters to reduce the threat of severe wildfire in critical watersheds, the Coconino National Forest and City of Flagstaff conducted a pilot project in the Dry Lake Hills watershed off Schultz Pass Road (Forest Road 420). The thinned areas and slash piles are visible from the Arizona Trail.

This project occurred on approximately 10 acres to assess impacts and capabilities of logging equipment – a harvester and a self-leveling feller-buncher – on steep slopes and to assess slash-piling methods. Specialists determined how this equipment maneuvers on the slopes, opportunities to limit soil disturbance, and best methods for stacking slash so it could be consumed efficiently during prescribed burning.

Lessons learned from this pilot project will be used for larger-scale planning in the FWPP.

The debris and slash will be burned within the next two years when the material has dried enough to burn thoroughly, and will most likely occur in the winter when there is adequate moisture to isolate the fire.

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To further assess ecological effects, the Ecological Restoration Institute (ERI) has established monitoring plots on the site and will be used to track effects on forest structure, fuel dynamics, canopy cover and soil function.

The pilot project is in an area where treatments have already been approved by a previous National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis. Analysis for new areas of treatment within the FWPP is still underway.