Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression Reduce Hazardous FuelsRestore Fire Adapted Ecosystems Promote Community AssistanceSummary


WGA Goal - Restore Fire Adapted Ecosystems

Actions to meet goal

  • Perform burned area stabilization and rehabilitation work in emergency areas
  • Restore burned areas and repair and improve lands unlikely to recover
  • Place priority on at risk watersheds that have been damaged by wildland fire
  • Establish native seeds and other plant material
  • Publicize and train in the use of minimum impact suppression activities
  • Promote research of effective restoration practices
  • Research interactions between fire, land management and other disturbances

The Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership Projects

The Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership (GFFP) is an alliance of 25 academic, environmental, business and governmental organizations dedicated to testing and adapting new approaches to restoring forest ecosystem health in the forests surrounding Flagstaff. The GFFP (formerly the Grand Canyon Forests Partnership) is a partnership between the US Forest Service (Coconino National Forest, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Products Lab) and non-profit Greater Flagstaff Forests GFFP MapPartnership, Inc. and was formally recognized through a Cooperative Agreement that was signed on March 31, 1998. The Partnership seeks to analyze 100,000 acres of WUI around Flagstaff in 10,000 acre blocks per year and implement forest health and fire reduction projects. The Partnership began after several severe fires burned around the city of Flagstaff in 1996. At present, there are over 70 different research processes underway within the GFFP and its project boundary. The studies include the effects of different treatments on fire intensity, soils, wildlife and vegetation. GFFP's vision is that within 20 years, the Flagstaff wildlands/urban interface will be a mosaic of open, parklike forest containing scattered timber stands with higher densities, interspersed with natural parks which approximate conditions present before Euro-Americans settlement.

There are four primary objectives of the GFFP: 1) Develop, test and demonstrate approaches to forest ecosystem restoration that are environmentally sound, economically sustainable, and socially acceptable; 2) Involve multiple and diverse interests and viewpoints at the local, regional and national levels in identifying, analyzing and reaching consensus on practical and workable solutions to critical forest ecosystem health problems in the region; 3) Monitor and document the ecological impacts, effects and tradeoffs of different restoration forestry techniques; 4) Monitor and document the economic and social impacts and tradeoffs of different restoration forestry techniques, including the development of new uses and products associated with small diameter timber.

The Partnership is comprised of a five member board of directors, the Partnership Staff, the Partnership Advisory Board (PAB) and interested parties who do not wish to be a voting partner but participate in the process. The Partnership Staff coordinates with the USFS and provides administrative support. The PAB provide recommendations to the board of directors and consist of three working groups. Members of the PAB include representatives from twenty-five organizations: AZ Game and Fish, AZ Public Service, AZ State Land Dept - Fire Management Div., City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, Coconino Co. Farm Bureau and Cattle Growers Assoc., Coconino Natural Resource Conservation District, Cocopai Resource Conservation and Development District, Ecological Restoration Institute, Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, Flagstaff Native Plant and Seed, Grand Canyon Trust, Greater Flagstaff Economic Council, Highlands Fire Department, Indigenous Community Enterprises, Northern Arizona Conservation Corps, Northern Arizona University - College of Engineering, Northern Arizona University - School of Forestry, Perkins Timber Harvesting, Practical Mycology, Society of American Foresters - Northern Arizona Chapter and Southwest Environmental Consultants. One of the key operating processes of the GFFP is unanimity. It was very important to all partners that everyone was comfortable with the decisions that were made.

Fort Valley Ecosystem Restoration Project and Research and Demonstration Sites

Ft Valley mapThe first project was in 2001 with the Fort Valley Project. Data collection and project planning for the Partnership began in 1998 with limited project work beginning in November 1998. Due to administrative appeals and litigation, the Partnership was delayed in implementing ecological restoration work on its first major project from May 5, 1999 to January 3, 2001. Fort Valley is GFFP's fire landscape-scale ecosystem restoration project. It will occur on a 9,100 acre analysis area and consists of two phases. Phase one consists of several different restoration approaches including burn only, adapted versions of the Northern Arizona University Ecological Restoration Institute restoration prescription, the Natural Processes restoration model developed by the Southwest Forest Alliance and Uneven aged Approach developed by the Rocky Mountain Research Station. Phase 1 began implementation in 1998 and was scheduled to be completed in 2002. Phase 2 NEPA work was scheduled to begin in the Fall 2003.

Ft Valley picture

Public Involvement

GFFP has several public information and involvement efforts ongoing; 1) The GFFP web site supplies information suited for a wide audience and is updated on a regular basis; 2) Field tours provided by GFFP staff are offered to project planning areas; 3) Neighborhood outreach to promote increased public awareness in neighborhoods adjacent to project areas; 4) Participation in the Nature Conservancy's Joint Fire Science program; 5) A monthly Community Forest Forum open to the public.

As of January 2003, 1,100 acres had been thinned on USFS lands, with another 900 acres under contract to thin. On City of Flagstaff and Arizona State lands, another 4,230 acres have been thinned. 750 acres have been broadcast burned on USFS land, with many other acres of slash pile burning. On City and State lands, 2,450 acres have been broadcast burned to date. 7,000 acres are actively managed for restoration efforts and include thinning and burning mentioned above as well as wildlife cover deferrals, road closures and road obliteration on four miles, meadow restoration at Chimney Springs, protection and restoration work at Chimney Spring and clean up and designation of camping spots along Freidlein Prairie Road. Six environmental analyses have been completed to date: Fort Valley Demo, Fort Valley Ecosystem Restoration Project, Elden and Arboretum Fuels Reduction Projects, Airport Fuels Reduction Project and Kachina Village Forest Health Project. These analyses represent 11,000 acres of potential ecological restoration treatments and over approximately 24,000 acres of area analyzed. The Partnership is in the midst of planning the 16,000 acre Woody Ridge Project, with a Draft EIS due in late 2003.

Mountainaire Project

The Mountainaire area is one of four smaller project areas to follow between phase 1 of Fort Valley and the next large forest health restoration area, Kachina Village. Approximately 1,200 acres are proposed for thinning and broadcast burning. Field analysis was scheduled to begin in Summer 2003.

Airport Project

The project area encompasses Flagstaff's Pulliam Airport and national forest lands adjacent to subdivisions around the airport: Pine Dale, Skunk Hollow, Bow and Arrow, Bennett Estates, and Aspen Shadows. The project was scheduled for 2000 and 2001. The project was categorically excluded and did not need an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Mechanical thinning is proposed on 850 acres with no trees over 12 inches in diameter proposed for cutting. Broadcast burning will take place on 1,922 acres and pile burning to remove slash will occur concurrent with the broadcast burn.

Arboretum Project

The project area encompasses about 600 acres south of the Flagstaff Arboretum and was scheduled for 2000. About 100 acres will be thinned and broadcast burned. Another 500 will be broadcast burned without mechanical thinning first.

Elden Project

This area has been identified as at high risk for catastrophic wildfire. This is a fuels reduction project. Approximately 193 acres will be thinned by Flagstaff Fire Department and USFS crews with chainsaws in 2000. The project was categorically excluded. Trees will be lightly thinned from below. Managers will work with homeowners to decide on the appropriate prescription. Material will be stacked and burned.

Kachina Village

This project covers 10,417 acres including 2,363 acres of private lands, 329 acres of State Lands, and 7,725 acres of national forest lands. These lands occur between Pulliam Airport to Kelly Canyon. Management actions will include thinning from below, prescribed fire and access and recreation management to address declining and poor forest health conditions. The Draft EIS for this work was released in July 2002. Implementation is scheduled to begin in Spring 2003.

Woody Ridge

This project covers 30,000 acres of national forest lands from I-40 to Oak Creek Vista and west of Highway 89A.

Future Challenges

According to Jim Wheeler, Flagstaff Assistant Fire Chief and one of the founding members of GFFP, there are two great challenges for the Partnership. The greatest external challenge is dealing with the principal agency-the USFS. GFFP has had three different forest supervisors on the Coconino since the Partnership began. Turnover of key leadership and people in the agency makes it difficult to maintain continuity. Personnel can be inflexible to new ideas, and also makes the USFS difficult to work with in some cases. The greatest challenge internally for GFFP is holding the principal collaborators together because they all have various interests.

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Copyright©2004 Toddi A. Steelman and North Carolina State University

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