Arizona Forests - Header Image
Tom Bean

4FRI - what we do (text)

4FRI field trip

Power in partnerships

Large-scale restoration involves a lot of people, a lot of planning, and a lot of coordination. Day-to-day, we spend a lot of time in meetings, discussing past restoration activities and planning future thinning and prescribed burns.  

4FRI field trip

Field trips

In places where restoration is underway, we visit tracts to monitor the size and spacing of trees left behind. We also look at untreated stands to determine which trees should be cut. Our field trips help us track progress and tweak plans.


Survey springs and streams

Forest restoration and the health of our water sources go hand-in-hand. We’re collecting baseline data on springs and streams so that over time, we can track the impacts of forest restoration on our water. More on our projects ›

4FRI - map

Four Forest Resotration (4FRI) Map of Project Area

4FRI - what's wrong

What's wrong with forests in northern Arizona?

There are too many trees. 

Fire used to be frequent in the Southwest’s ponderosa pine forests, clearing out understories of saplings and maintaining open stands of large, well-spaced trees. According to lore, ranchers could drive wagons through the “park-like” woodlands. But decades of fire suppression allowed spindly trunks to crowd our national forests, and the unnaturally dense conditions now fuel severe wildfires, putting communities and wildlife at risk.

4FRI - Clarence Dutton quote

Description of the Kaibab Plateau, circa 1872:

The trees are large and noble in aspect and stand widely apart, except in the highest part of the plateau where spruces dominate. Instead of dense thickets where we are shut in by impenetrable foliage, we can look far beyond and see the tree trunks vanishing away like an infinite colonnade. The grounds unobstructed and inviting. There is a constant succession of parks and glades, dream avenues of grass and flowers winding between sylvan walls, or spreading out in broad open meadows. From June until September, there is a display of wildflowers which is quite beyond description. 

— Clarence Dutton, geologist for the United States Geological Survey 

4FRI - 1908 vs 1990


Open forest structure


1930s forest structure


1990 forest structure


4fri - goals

2010: 4FRI in action

Over the next 20 years, 4FRI seeks to accelerate forest restoration across the Mogollon Rim to:

  • Create healthy forests to sustain native plants and animals
  • Minimize the threat of destructive wildfires
  • Protect springs and streams
  • Strengthen local economies and create sustainable forest industries
  • Engage the public in the restoration process

4FRI - current status

Current status of 4FRI

On the east side of the Mogollon Rim, treatments are hitting the ground at an encouraging pace. Local industry has thinned over 60,000 acres in that area since 2012, complemented by prescribed and managed fire across nearly 200,000 additional acres. Work on the west side is much slower, but the 4FRI group is trying to find ways to accelerate restoration with the goal of treating a total of 50,000 acres per year. Meanwhile, we are in the planning phase for the Rim Country Project, which will restore an additional 1.24 million acres of forest lands.

4FRI - boots on the ground

Boots on the ground

4FRI - boots on the ground (part 2)

Historically, forest restoration has cost as much as $1,000 per acre.

Restoring ponderosa pine forests in northern Arizona is a massive undertaking — one that is costly and time-intensive. To accomplish restoration across such a vast landscape, we're working with the wood products industry to offset costs and accelerate restoration while also supporting local economies. Restoration is the right thing to do for Arizona's ponderosa pine forests, but it isn't risk-free. Tree thinning can cause soil disturbance and degrade habitat for species that have become used to the dense forests of the past century. We work to ensure our industry partners support ecologically sound restoration.

4FRI - volunteers in action

4FRI - volunteers in action

Volunteers in action

We work with the Forest Service to study water sources on the Coconino and Kaibab national forests. The data our volunteers collect helps inform forest restoration plans. We’ve hiked dozens of miles along stream channels, marking where water emerges and disappears, and have assessed more than 40 springs.

4FRI - join us in the field

Help protect our forests. Join us in the field.

4FRI - why care

Why care about forest restoration in Arizona?

What's the big deal about protecting the woods? For starters, it could save millions of tax payer dollars. Read our seven reasons for forest restoration ›

AZ Forest Restoration - why care

Forests play a key role in capturing, filtering, and supplying clean water for the communities, plants, and animals that live nearby. The state of Arizona only receives about 12 inches of rain each year, so it's important to conserve and protect our scarce water resources. 

What are the threats?

Climate change — Climate change is already affecting the Colorado Plateau, and scientists agree that the Southwest will continue to get hotter and drier over the coming decades. For forests, this means increased stress from drought, invasive species, pest outbreaks, and fires.

Wildfire — Big blazes not only threaten homes and infrastructure, but they also send loads of ash and debris into our waterways, which can kill aquatic life and impact water quality.

Forest Restoration Blog


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