Restoring Arizona s Forests: Strategies to Accelerate Action. October 3 4, 2013

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1 Restoring Arizona s Forests: Strategies to Accelerate Action Ideas from the Restoration Investment Strategies for Arizona s Forests and Watersheds Conference October 3 4, 2013

2 Introduction Arizona s diverse forests are treasured landscapes that support the quality of life we all enjoy. Our forests provide solace and recreation, drinking water and habitat for wildlife. Experts agree that many of Arizona s forests are unhealthy and as a consequence are burning severely and at scales never before recorded in history. These fires have the potential of forever altering or destroying these treasured landscapes. Most of Arizona s forests are on federal land. During the past 15 years, federal land managers have actively applied treatments in and around communities to reduce the risk of fire. Nevertheless, it is clear that the current level of federal financial and human investment is inadequate to solve the forest health problem. Without accelerating the pace and scale of action, fire will remain a threat to rural economies, watersheds and water supply, recreation and tourism, wildlife habitat and the quality of life Arizonans enjoy. Photos courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Northern Arizona University s Ecological Restoration Institute

3 Conference Synopsis On October 3 4, 2013, SRP and other partners sponsored a conference that explored and identified innovative approaches to speed up forest restoration efforts. The first day of the conference included panels and presentations by representatives of nonprofit organizations, municipalities, and private corporations describing their unique programs and accomplishments. On the second day of the conference, attendees participated in interactive workshops to learn more about the operations and details associated with the novel programs presented the first day. At the conclusion of the conference, participants were given the opportunity to discuss innovative options for increasing forest restoration in Arizona. Participants were divided into five groups (cities and towns, business sector, academia, state government and nonprofit sector) and were asked to answer this question: HOW DO WE MATCH OR EXCEED THE PER-ACRE RATE OF FOREST RESTORATION WITH THE PER-ACRE LOSS OF OUR FORESTS TO CATASTROPHIC WILDFIRE? Each group was asked to identify one strategy for increasing forest restoration resources and determine the strengths and opportunities that the group can contribute for executing the strategy.

4 Strategies Developed by SECTOR Cities and Towns Cities and towns have much to gain by accelerating restoration. In particular, Arizona s forests provide a significant amount of potable water used by all Valley cities. A restored watershed maintains water quality and can even increase water quantity under certain circumstances. Conversely, wildfires and post-fire flooding can damage water conveyance infrastructure, accelerate sedimentation in reservoirs, impair the taste of drinking water, and cause damage in cities, towns and neighborhoods. Representatives from cities and towns concluded that developing a Watershed Health Initiative where customers can sign up to voluntarily increase water fees could be a viable option for increasing financial resources for forest restoration. Towns and communities offer well-established communication networks that reach water customers, chambers of commerce, city councils and elected officials. Beyond the opportunity for direct contributions through water bills, these municipalities can expand outreach through other extensive communication channels. Business The economic health and vitality of Arizona depends on water. In addition, the amenities provided by Arizona forests are critical to tourism the largest economic sector in Arizona and to maintaining a robust workforce that seeks out recreation and other natural amenities. Business leaders proposed establishing a collaborative corporation that includes public, private, academia and education interests. The corporation could be developed to collect and distribute private sources of funding that can be leveraged with public funds. Funds would be used for statewide education, on-the-ground implementation of post-fire planting (where appropriate), and restoration and thinning treatments. Businesses bring planning know-how and networking capabilities that will be important in developing a collaborative corporation that is based on a sound business model and existing infrastructure.

5 Academia Our universities can mobilize the unique capabilities of knowledge, research, and learning to evaluate and then communicate appropriate actions to improve forest health. The strategies offered by academic representatives include the translation of biophysical and social science to land managers and the general public and coordinating a tri-university outreach effort to communicate the best available science to managers and key stakeholders. The universities are equipped to coordinate research and application as well as to serve as a neutral authority on appropriate science to land managers and stakeholders. This group also advanced the idea of creating a conservation corps modeled after the conservation corps of the 1930s. Much like the conservation corps of that time, this corps could provide the labor required to treat forests while providing jobs in rural areas that experience some of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

6 State Government Arizona s state government has a keen interest in restoring forests. Even though the majority of forests in Arizona are on federal land, a severe, landscape-scale fire does not honor ownership boundaries. State government is responsible for firefighting on nonfederal lands and bears significant costs when wildfire affects communities, roads and infrastructure. Forest restoration brings jobs and economic benefits to rural areas of the state. Supporting restoration of a healthy forest is economically prudent for state government. Elected officials and other representatives of state government believe an important strategy is to increase opportunities to harvest, transport and process woody materials. To do this, they will work with federal and state partners to encourage them to maintain a continuous supply of forest material. They also will help increase utilization of materials through education, outreach and incentives. Through economic development programs, our elected officials and state agencies can work with industry groups, understand their needs and help in targeted ways. For example, they can help businesses access incentive programs and other grant opportunities. State economic experts can also identify and develop incentives based on successful programs from other states. The state also has the opportunity to lead by example. It can work in cooperation with the Forest Service as an active partner (as is the case with the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, 4FRI) and participate in other large-scale collaborative projects to efficiently treat state trust lands that are adjacent to federal land in order to create a cohesive restored landscape. Nonprofit Organizations The nonprofit community was represented by environmental, conservation, wildlife and other organizations. They speak for many stakeholders concerned about the future of Arizona s forests. In Arizona, nonprofit organizations are knowledgeable about forest health problems and are already engaged in restoration projects. This group recommended developing a collaborative-based statewide funding source for restoration. The strength of these organizations is that they have the ability to facilitate and mediate discussions and can garner support from key entities. Representatives from the nonprofit sector also believe they can help attract private donations for restoration that can serve as a nonfederal match to federal programs.

7 Next Steps: From Ideas to Action To achieve the goal of restoring Arizona s forests, we need to work together. You can get involved by doing the following: Comment on the strategies outlined in this paper by Friday, January 3. This can be done via to Do not limit yourself to these ideas. If you have additional recommendations, please provide them. Thank you! Finally, thank you again for your interest and participation. Working together, we can restore our forests, but solutions will take dedicated champions and increased funding. We look forward to working with you in the future to accelerate restoration and protect Arizona s forests. Check the website for new information and opportunities to participate: srpnet.com/forest. Attend the next work session for Restoring Arizona s Forests. We will be scheduling a working session to further develop the strategies into a step-by-step action plan. We will need help from individuals who represent a cross-section of expertise and have the desire to get work done! Further details will be announced at the beginning of 2014.

8 /13 Printed on recycled paper

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