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Phoenix Forum on Forests’ Future

April 27, 2010

PHOENIX - Management rules for the nation's forests and grasslands haven't changed for nearly 30 years. A Forest Service listening tour comes to Phoenix Wednesday evening, seeking public input from a wide variety of forest users on updating those rules.

Scotty Johnson, the Arizona senior outreach representative for Defenders of Wildlife, says a science-based approach to habitat and species management is essential to forest sustainability.

"We need to know what populations are thriving, which populations are declining, so that the balance can be kept on the national forests. And without those scientific numbers, we're at a loss."

Arizona has six national forests covering more than 11 million acres. Johnson says national forests pump millions of dollars into Arizona's local economies each year, from uses that range from hiking, fishing and photography to logging, grazing and mining.

"The key is balance, really. We need to balance the different interests that are using the national forests. We need to balance the gas and oil exploration that's occurring in national forests and make sure that it doesn't cause extinction of certain species."

Johnson says the Forest Service needs direction from the public on dealing with future challenges to forest health, such as shorter and warmer winters, droughts, increasing wildfires, and disappearing wildlife habitat.

"We enjoy the forests. It's a right of ours to be out there as citizens, and along with that we have a responsibility to plug in and ensure that it stays healthy for this and future generations."

Johnson would also like to see increased cooperation among federal and state land management agencies.

The Phoenix meeting is one of more than 30 Forest Service town halls being held across the country. It will take place Wednesday 6 to 8 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel Phoenix Airport North.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ