4FRI Stewardship Contract Awarded
On May 18th, the Forest Service awarded the largest stewardship contract in the agency’s history. The contract calls for 300,000 acres of restoration-based thinning over ten years, improving forest health, reducing the risk from wildfire to communities, creating jobs, and improving local economies. This contract will begin large-scale implementation of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) – a twenty- year, 2.4 million acre plan by the Forest Service and over thirty stakeholders, including Grand Canyon Trust, to restore northern Arizona’s forests.
Since 4FRI’s inception in 2009, the Trust has helped lead the collaborative effort. Over the past two years, the collaborative stakeholder group has guided and informed the U.S. Forest Service’s formal planning efforts. By this September, the Forest Service is expected to produce an official draft of their environmental analysis for the first 4FRI analysis area. Within this one million-acre analysis area, the Forest Service is likely to propose nearly 400,000 acres of restoration-based thinning activities and nearly 600,000 acres of prescribed burning activity. The recently awarded stewardship contract is intended to serve as the vehicle for accomplishing much of the restoration-based thinning activities planned for this area at a significantly reduced cost to the federal government.
The contract recipient – Pioneer Forest Products – hopes to offset the cost of implementing thinning activities by utilizing the small-diameter trees and biomass removed from the forest. The company plans to build a processing facility near Winslow, Arizona, at which ponderosa pine timber less than fifteen inches in diameter will be converted into non-commodity, high-value lumber, laminate wood panels, doors and door frames, window frames, furniture, cabinetry, and specialty components. The company also hopes to use a portion of the slash from the forest operations and mill waste to create bio-diesel fuel, heat their kilns, and generate electricity for their operations.
If Pioneer Forest Products is able to secure financing for its proposed facility, they anticipate beginning full-scale operations by 2014. At that time, Pioneer expects to have the capacity to treat approximately 30,000 acres of overstocked forests per year across the 4FRI landscape.