With nothing but the scrubby eastern Arizona desert surrounding it for miles, the Lumberjack Sawmill rises from the horizon like a set piece from a “Mad Max” film. Jason Rosamond, who owns the mill as CEO of Good Earth Power AZ, strolls around the property, describing how each piece of hulking machinery shapes ponderosa pine logs into salable products, from boards to telephone poles to horse bedding.

Rosamond is doggedly optimistic, even though everyone from local logging companies to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is goading him to accomplish what is widely acknowledged to be a very hard job.

Good Earth Power is a major cog in the wheel of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI, a massive public-private partnership with the U.S. Forest Service aiming to restore 2.4 million acres of northern Arizona’s forests. It is the largest forest restoration project in Forest Service history, an effort borne of years of planning and negotiations among dozens of groups here in northern Arizona.

For all involved, the stakes are as high as their hopes — but tensions are high, too. Northern Arizona’s forests could erupt in flames at any point, but so far, Good Earth Power has accomplished work on a fraction of the acres that need it.

Under 4FRI, the Forest Service gave Good Earth Power a contract to thin 300,000 acres after the first company that attempted to do so went belly up. Rosamond’s job is to build up an industry where little remained less than a decade ago, figure out how to make products out of every last pine needle harvested and turn a profit.

From E&E Publishing: http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060021405