The Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) is currently the nation’s largest collaborative effort designed to restore ecosystems in United States forests. The four National Forests involved with this project, Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto, are poised to see a significant change potentially affecting more than just the environment. It is also anticipated to have a viable economic impact on the communities that are intertwined with them.

From the south rim of the Grand Canyon and across the Mogollon Rim all the way to the beautiful White Mountains, Northern Arizona is filled with an abundance of ponderosa pine forests. The unfortunate reality is that this lush land has also been overgrown and degraded with an unsustainable level of historical land use. The trees, which are unhealthy and thin, are in the continuous and increasing threat of catastrophic wildfires.

“4FRI is a collaborative effort between the Forest Service and more than 40 organizations,” stated Forest Service biologist and 4FRI team leader Henry Provencio. He explains that the intention of the project is to restore the ecological resilience and functionality of these 2.4 million acres of forests. He reports that the specialist reports and most of the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) is now complete. Most of this is currently available for the public to view. The DEIS, which is likely going to see an early 2013 release, will evaluate the restoration of the landscape of Kaibab and Coconino forests adding up to nearly one million acres in size.

“The Forest Service announced its selection of Pioneer Forest Products as the contractor to perform treatments on the Apache-Sitgreaves, Tonto, Coconino, and Kaibab forests as part of the 4FRI effort. The contract, which is for 10 years, will see restoration-based thinning for 300,000 acres of land, improve the health of the forest, reduce the risk to communities from wildfire, create jobs, and improve local economies,” Provencio explained. He also said that the Forest Service has identified well over 50,000 acres in out-year or “shelf stock” projects that can be used to feed the 4FRI contract with Pioneer Forest Products.

From Flagstaff Business News: