– The Eastern Arizona Counties Organization (ECO) brought members of the Arizona State Legislature, as well as dozens of local, state and federal officials, to the White Mountains to educate policy makers on the need to properly manage the forest during the organization’s annual Legislators Field Trip.
District III Supervisor Jason Whiting helped guide the legislators around the region to show how this issue not only affects local communities, but all forest and water users around the state.
“We are discussing the best solutions on how to move forward with forest management,” Supervisor Whiting said. “This is an issue that reaches far beyond our local communities. It’s important to bring local, state and federal officials together, because it will take all of us to solve this problem.”
The focus of the ECO Legislative Field Trip was biomass and the need to expand forest restoration to landscape scale.
For every acre of forest that is properly managed, 25 tons of round wood (logs) are produced. However, at the same time, up to 30 tons of biomass (branches, tree tops, leaves, etc.) must also be removed. This is an enormous amount of dry fuel for a catastrophic wildfire to ignite.
“Forest restoration has several objectives; the mitigation of the risk of catastrophic fire is one of them,” ECO Executive Director Pascal Berlioux said. “Fires burn so hot in the southwest that they can destroy the top soil and prevents anything from being able to grow back. This becomes a serious issue in monsoon season when the scorched soil washes away from the local watersheds into the rivers and reservoir systems.”
Once scorched soil and ash from wildfires reach water sources such as lakes and rivers, the sediment mixes with the water and contaminates the water supply. This issue reaches far beyond local communities as these are the same sources that supply fresh water to the state’s large cities.
The soil, ash and sentiment eventually reaches the water supply of our state’s major cities, causing clogs and damage to occur at water purification plants.
The key to eliminating this issue is to not just manage the forest and thin overcrowded areas, but to remove the biomass as well.
“In order to mitigate the risk of fire, we need to remove not only the logs, but the logging biomass as well,” Berlioux said. “The challenge that we are facing right now is that the industry use for the logging biomass is at full capacity. This prevents the cleanup effort from being expanded to landscape scale. We need additional capacity to dispose responsibility of up to 1.5 million tons of logging biomass every year.”
Recent innovations in logging and utilization technologies have increased the use for logging biomass and small diameter wood, but the sheer amount produced in our region still creates fire hazards for our local communities. Locally, industries such as NovaBioPower have created uses for logging biomass, but a much larger scale is still needed at the local level in order to minimize the risk of large-scale wildfires in the region.
For more information on ECO or the forest management initiative, please visit www.facebook.com/Easter_Arizona_Counties_Organization or call (928) 637-3037.
Members of the State Legislature stand in front of a logging biomass pile
For more information:
Contact - Adam Wolfe
Navajo County Communications Manager
Phone: (928) 524-4165