Editorial Published July 9, 2011 in the Camp Verde Bugle.
Forest health demands collaboration
In ironic timing, just as the Wallow Fire was kicking into full gear, the U.S. Forest Service issued a request for proposals for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. Known as 4FRI, the proposal is a large-scale thinning and harvesting plan in four Arizona forests.
Up until last week, 4FRI was rather quietly working its way through the process. Then it got dragged into a contentious Arizona House panel on forest health.
The intent of 4FRI is collaboration between the USFS and private industry. In June, Congressman Paul Gosar was among those praising the idea, calling it critical to communities in District 1. 4FRI was a natural topic of conversation for last week’s panel for that reason, but it was used as a random club to beat at vaguely referenced environmental groups.
Gosar’s dismissal of such groups with the off-hand comment to the panel, “It’s time for the cows and the chainsaws,” was not exactly helpful even if it was on the same page as local rancher Andy Groseta. All that exchange did was start a moot debate over who was the better steward umpteen years ago and who has the better science. That is exactly what causes the gridlock everyone was complaining about in the first place.
The target of healthy forests demands collaboration.
4FRI aims to make forests less wildfire prone while restoring ecosystems. Environmentalists, whether radical or conservative, are part of that. If implemented as proposed, it makes environmentalists of us all.
For the most part, the four forests referenced by 4FRI – Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto – are in District 1. Like the rest of us, Congressman Gosar has more than a passing interest in the success of the proposed project.
But that success still rests on a collaborative attitude so sorely missing in the post-Wallow conversations so far.