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Six New Projects Announced to Protect Arizona Forests from Wildfire

Forest fire. Credit: ellend1022/iStock
Forest fire. Credit: ellend1022/iStock
October 7, 2015

PHOENIX - Massive wildfires raged across the western United States this summer, killing people and devastating entire towns. Six new projects announced today are designed to help Arizona avoid that same fate.

It's part of the two-day Healthy Forests, Vibrant Economy Conference in Scottsdale, attended by 300 leaders in forestry, business and government. The conference is sponsored by the Salt River Project, the largest provider of water and power in the state.

Project spokesman Jeff Lane said protecting the forest is crucial to ensuring a clean, ample water supply.

"You have a lot of this silt and sediment that comes down from burnt-out forest areas," he said. "Rain just washes that sediment into the reservoirs."

These six projects will thin out overgrown forests, work to decrease erosion and sedimentation, improve wildlife habitat and fix trails near Stoneman Lake, McCracken, Oak Creek, Red Flat, Black River and the West Pinto Trail.

The money comes from the Northern Arizona Forest Fund, a partnership between SRP and the National Forest Foundation, working with the U.S. Forest Service. The city of Phoenix recently pledged $600,000 for the fund, and Lane said he hopes others will follow the city's lead.

"It provides an easy way for businesses and residents to invest in the lands and the watersheds that they depend on."

Forest advocates also are closely watching the Wildfire Management Act of 2015, introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year. The bill would create a central fund to fight catastrophic wildfires with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Details of the act are online at energy.senate.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ