The Four Forest Restoration Initiative is currently the nations largest collaborative effort designed to restore ecosystems in United States forests.
December 26 2012
by Jesse Horn, Flagstaff Business News
The Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) is currently the
nations 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.
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.
Pioneer plans to begin receiving logs at its Winslow, Ariz., mill during the summer of 2013.
Sylvia Allen expressed her excitement about the project, as someone who
has made rural economy a staple of her platform, indicating that this
could be great for Northern Arizona.
For the last 10 years, the
taxpayer has paid for what little thinning has taken place in our
forest. 4FRI provides that private industry will pay for the removal of
the fiber then create different products from that fiber which will
fuel our economy, Senator Allen said. It is critical that 4FRI is
successful and we realize jobs and an improved economy in Navajo County
and the state. Our forest health will greatly improve and help to stop
the catastrophic fires that are destroying our ponderosa pines.
Restoring private markets and developing natural resources is the key
to returning prosperity to our country. 4FRI is just one small but
important step in that direction.
Pioneer Associates, based out
of Billings Mont., has stated that they are up to the large task at hand
and it is projected that the project will bring in as many as 1,000
jobs over the course of the next 10 years. Pioneer CEO Herman Hauck
explained that the project will start off small and slightly ease up
over the course of the next two years.
We anticipate 200 to 300
jobs in forestry, and 500 to 600 jobs at the Winslow facility, he said.
He also stressed that he would like to see locals used to fill
positions, but this would largely depend upon the qualifications of
We still need to train all the people, acquire
equipment and work out shipments. We are excited to hire local
individuals that apply for positions, but they must meet requirements.
He said that the Winslow plant will have three shifts and run five days a
There are two segments, log and sowing, and there will be
somewhere between 30 and 50 people per shift. It is expected that at
least 30,000 acres per year will be logged, adding up to approximately
800,000 tons of materials. The first year will likely see somewhere
between 5,000 to 7,000 acres, the latter being about half of the annual
goal of 15,000 acres. According to Mike Cooley of Cooley Forest Products
and consultant for Hauck on the project, there will be 20 kilns in
place to process the wood and nine finger-joint lines. Hauck stated
that in addition to producing bio-fuel, which was created from the waste
material, it is intended that a variety of other products will be
crafted ranging from wood doors and window frames to furniture and 4×8
Funding is lined up now, and we have a letter of
intent for 50 percent of the products created, Hauck continued. This
is a U.S.-based company that is interested, and we are in discussion
with others as well. Hauck would not yet identify the name of the
company, or the others with which they are in talks.
It will still
take about a year for the first log to be cut, and there will be three
phases, with the final phase bringing nearly 250 jobs to the sawmill
alone. An independent company prepared an economic impact report for
Pioneer Associates showing the Winslow facility, resting on 311 acres
not far from the airport, will see an estimated $57 million in economic
output. $18 million will be in labor income. According to the report, an
additional $157 million will be created annually in Navajo and Coconino
counties, with $41 million being created in labor income.
impact will also be substantial, amounting to $5.5 million for the
facility construction and an additional $12.7 million for the annual
production. With tax revenue down from closures like the Snowflake paper
mill in Navajo County, this will be a welcome addition. These totals
are also direct effects, and do not include the effects that other
businesses will see with the growth.
Hauck stated that the Winslow
facility was selected because of its central location to the four
forests that will be treated, as well as the shipping corridor of I-40
that can easily be utilized. This will enable Pioneers products to be
available on a local, national or even global market.