For a pictorial summary of harvesting operations on Observatory Mesa see: Observatory Mesa
What is the status of work being done on Observatory Mesa Natural Area (OMNA)? For more see: Obs Mesa_Q&A_Jan 16
In the summer/fall of 2015, 475 acres of Section 18, part of the Observatory Mesa Natural area, owned by the City of Flagstaff, were mechanically harvested as part of the Flaggstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). Fore more: FWPP-Obs Mesa_Sec 18_Lessons Learned
Flagstaff, AZ – On October 22, the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project reached another significant milestone when Coconino National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West signed the final Record of Decision for the project’s Environmental Impact Statement. A Signing Ceremony was held for partners and collaborators to celebrate this achievement. This project is unique in its origin and funding, as it was proposed by the City and is funded by a municipal bond approved by voters in 2012.
– Read to the end for information on what to expect for implementation –
Since 2013, implementation of fuels reduction treatments have been completed and will continue in areas within FWPP boundaries on City and State lands, as well as National Forest lands that were approved through previous National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses. This final Record of Decision approves treatments on the remainder of the National Forest lands within the FWPP boundary – the majority of the project area – including use of novel harvesting methods to reduce hazardous fuels on the steep slopes above Flagstaff’s key watersheds.
The Decision includes treatment of 8,669 acres through a combination of mechanical thinning, hand thinning, and prescribed burning. Prescribed fire will occur on all 8,669 acres, which includes approximately 870 acres that will receive only fire treatments. Traditional, ground-based harvesting equipment will be used for the most of the thinning (5,817 acres). Helicopter and cable logging will occur on small portions of the project area (566 and 414 acres respectively). These treatments will begin next year. Prep work – including marking trees, improving roads, and preparing contracts – will begin this fall and winter in the Dry Lake Hills area.
“This is a monumental occasion of which the entire community should be proud,” says Laura Jo West, Coconino National Forest Supervisor. “We’re at this point today because of the incredible collaboration among all the partners and the tremendous support we’ve received from the community. We got here together, and we’re excited to continue working together in the next chapter of this exceptional project.”
Though prep work is less noticeable than harvesting, the public should still expect to see increased activity in the forest over the next several months.
- Crews will be marking trees this fall and winter in the Dry Lake Hills area in preparation for implementing Phase 1 of the project next summer.
- Trees painted with orange indicate these trees are “leave trees” and will not be not cut; however, in some areas blue paint may be used to indicate trees that will be removed. Efforts will be made to minimize markings within viewsheds of roads, trails, and recreation sites.
- Thinning efforts on City, State, and National Forest lands will continue throughout the project area. This includes small-scale demonstrations of equipment on steep slopes and harvesting in the 891-acre Orion Task Order which is within the FWPP and will be carried-out through the Four Forest Restoration Initiative Phase One Stewardship Contract held by Good Earth Power, LLC.
- Smoke from prescribed fires will be noticeable from the Flagstaff area. The Coconino NF provides notifications of Forest Service prescribed fires, which can be found on the forest website at coconinonationalforest.us.
The Forest Service and City of Flagstaff developed an implementation plan that outlines the general timeline for FWPP treatments to occur. It separates thinning into three phases to maximize efficiency while limiting impacts to aesthetics, recreation, and threatened and endangered species.
- Thinning Phase 1: 1,428 acres. This phase will include treatments on the lower slopes of the Dry Lake Hills north of Flagstaff. Ground-based mechanical harvesting methods will be used. Prep work in these areas will occur this fall and winter, with harvesting expected to begin in 2016.
- Thinning Phase 2: 3,810 acres. This phase will occur on the steep slopes of the Dry Lake Hills and includes treatments that require specialized equipment such as helicopter and cable logging and steep-slope harvesting equipment. Phase 2 also includes thinning in Mexican spotted owl Protected Activity Centers (PACs) and northern goshawk post-fledging family areas (PFAs), and will be completed in as short a timeframe as possible to limit the duration of impacts. Prep work is expected to occur in 2016 and 2017, with harvesting estimated to begin in 2017 or 2018.
- Thinning Phase 3: 2,975 acres. This phase covers all the treatments in the Mormon Mountain portion of the FWPP, south of Flagstaff near Lake Mary. Prep work is planned to occur in 2017 and 2018, with harvesting activities expected to begin in 2019.
- Prescribed fire treatments will occur as conditions allow, typically in the fall and spring.
The City of Flagstaff, the USDA Forest Service, and the State of Arizona continue to make FWPP a top priority and will continue to provide the public with updates on the project that Flagstaff voters approved.
The Implementation Plan, EIS, and Record of Decision are available on the Forest Service project website at click here
This summary explains the how, when, what and why of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project’s draft Record of Decision. The summary also includes relevant reference websites and tables that describe treated acres and corresponding harvesting methods, post-treatment fire
hazard results, and predicted soil burn severity maps. See the FWPP DROD Summary for details.
The Coconino National Forest announces Scott Russell, Acting Forest Supervisor, has signed the draft Record of Decision (ROD) for the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project!
Russell said, “We listened to the concerns brought forth during the DEIS comment period and have not only incorporated but also relied on public input in the formation of this decision. The draft ROD will meet the purpose and need for the project while also addressing concerns related to large tree retention, effects on the viewshed of Flagstaff, and impacts to the Mexican spotted owl.”
The draft ROD and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) as well as the Response to Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and an Implementation Plan are now available on the Forest Service (USFS) project website here: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/FWPP.
A legal notice of the availability of the draft ROD and FEIS is anticipated to print in the Arizona Daily Sun on June 26, which will mark the start of the 45-day objection period. A copy of the legal notice will be posted on the USFS website above. Once the objection period ends, the USFS will go through a 45-day objection resolution period. After the objections are resolved, the USFS can issue a final Record of Decision, anticipated September 2015, and begin implementation. You can also find the Implementation Guide on the website above for more information about the implementation phases, estimated timelines, and steps necessary to implement and administer a timber contract.
If you have any questions about the project, the draft decision, the comment period or the FEIS, please feel free to contact FWPP USFS Project Manager, Erin Phelps, at (928) 527-8240 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FWPP’s Biannual Report summarizes accomplishments in Project Planning, Implementation, Outreach, Monitoring, Tribal Engagement, and Financial Leverage from July-Dec. 2014. Click here for the full report: Biannual Report July-Dec 2014_Final_1-21-15
New study reveals potential cost avoidance to citizens of Flagstaff.
Potential financial damages avoided in implementing FWPP range from $573 million to $1.2 billion. For full report see: Final FWPP Cost Avoidance October 27
Alternatives 2 and 3 would have the greatest reduction in active crown fire potential: from approximately 57 percent of the project area under the No Action Alternative to 7 percent under Alternatives 2 and 3, compared to approximately
28 percent under Alternative 4. Alternatives 2 and 3 would also result in the greatest reduction in post-fire predicted peak discharge associated with a 100-year storm event (1 percent recurrence interval): 60 percent reduction for Alternatives 2 and 3 versus 30 percent reduction for Alternative 4 as compared to the No Action Alternative. All three action alternatives include a Forest Plan amendment to allow mechanized equipment for thinning on slopes greater than 40 percent (see Forest Plan Amendments in Chapter 2 and Appendix A for more information). For more click here: FWPP DEIS Comparison Summary
Based on input received on the Proposed Action released in April 2013, the US Forest Service (USFS) developed four treatment alternatives, which are analyzed and compared in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) which has been released for public comment July 3rd. The public is encouraged to provide feedback during the 45-day comment period ending August 18th. The USFS will use the comments received to develop the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and draft Record of Decision (ROD); these will be published later this year. Once the FEIS and draft decision are published, there will be a 45-day objection period for those who provided comments followed by a 45-day resolution period. The final ROD, which will contain the final decision for treatment, is expected early next year (2015).
Two open houses are scheduled at the Flagstaff Aquaplex July 17th and 22nd from 5:00-7:30 PM to review the DEIS. The DEIS, along with a Reader’s Guide, a Map Packet and other supporting information can be found online at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/FWPP.