Thinning objections thwart collaboration

Unsigned editorial, Arizona Daily Sun, 11/30/07

It’s certainly good to hear that a sixth major thinning project has been officially proposed for the forests surrounding Flagstaff.

What’s not so good is to learn that outsiders from Tucson and New Mexico have raised objections to a plan already arrived at by local compromise.

The thinning plans are the collaboration of the Coconino National Forest and the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership. When complete, they will cover nearly 100,000 acres of what’s known as the wildland-urban interface.

Not only will the forest emerge healthier, but local communities will be safer from catastrophic wildfire.

The partnership is a model of collaboration and consensus-building by business, conservation and academic interests, in addition to the Forest Service.

It was created in part out of frustration with the adversarial and litigious process involved in getting forest thinning projects approved. When environmentalists would take the Forest Service to court, it was not only costly to taxpayers but prolonged the wildfire risk to local communities…

But two outside environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson and Forest Guardians of New Mexico, have longstanding objections to the cutting of almost any old-growth tree. They rightly point out that Southwest forests have already lost most of their large trees to logging, and they contend no more can be spared. The goshawk, they add, is not as adaptable as ERI scientists believe.

But if aggressive thinning isn’t conducted, including in some old-growth stands, there won’t be any trees left at all, big or small. And that means no goshawk, either. We learned that locally in the Pumpkin Fire, which scorched stands of unthinned old-growth pines near Kendrick Peak down to bare earth because it reached the crowns… [more]

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