The Museum wildfire, which began July 21st, is currently still burning in the Dry Lake Hills area north of town. It is a difficult, challenging, and extremely unfortunate event. While the cause remains undetermined at this point, rest assured that all leads are being followed as the investigation continues.
City and Coconino National Forest personnel have been working diligently over the past few years to implement planned forest treatments. As of last week, we were just shy of 50% completed within the Dry Lake Hills area (approximately 65% completed project-wide).
The fire will continue for another week or more before
full-containment. Some initial reports are that some of this completed
work had some positive effects on fire spread and intensity, but
We do know that some areas burned very hot/severe and that some treatment sites – completed our underway – were within those areas;
Two of the seven log decks were burned (NOTE: due to wood size, type, and condition, all log decks are of minimal timber value);
Some trails have been damaged, wildlife habitat lost, and the Mt Elden Road will be impacted for some time;
Post fire flooding is a very real threat and the City and County are working tirelessly to mitigate the impacts;
No structures have been damaged or lost as a result of the fire;, and
There has been only two relatively minor injuries to-date.
In the coming weeks, we will work to assess the impacts of the fire on the Watershed Project, and we’ll share those results once known. What we can say right now, however, is that it could have been far worse. We are very grateful to the Southwest Incident Management Team #2 for their professionalism, effectiveness, and sensitivity to our community and the Project.
Following that assessment, we’ll re-engage and carry-on. We have on-going work that still needs to be completed, and areas where planned work remains to be done. Our objectives and commitment remain unchanged.
The Coconino National Forest has issued an updated press release regarding the forest closure in the Dry Lake Hills and Mount Elden areas.
Please note that there is increased access for recreation in some areas, but active areas of the project are still closed for public safety! Please respect all closure signs and stay out of closed areas.
To get an update on what has changed, what is open, and what is still closed to the public, please read the updated forest closure press release below:
Coconino National Forest has
issued a closure order for an area of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection
Project that includes Dry Lake Hills and a large portion of Mount Elden in
order to keep the public safe from forest harvesting operations.
The public is restricted from
entering this closure area so that helicopter logging and forest thinning
operations can be conducted safely.
Heavy equipment and truck
traffic will be present on Schultz Pass Road (Forest Road 420), Elden Lookout
Road, and U.S. Highway 180. Several miles of Schultz Pass Road with the closure
area are closed, as well as Elden Lookout Road, for public safety.
The closure area also affects
all or portions of trails, including:
Elden Lookout Trail
Little Bear Trail
Little Elden Trail
Little Gnarly Trail
Lower Oldham Trail
Rocky Ridge Trail
Schultz Creek Trail
Upper Oldham Trail
Harvesting operations are
expected to conclude sometime this summer. Violation of these prohibitions is
punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for
organizations and/or imprisonment for not more than six months.
On Thursday Aug 23rd, USFS Volunteer and FWPP partner Karen Malis-Clark lead a field visit through both the recently completed portions of the hand-thinning and mechanical harvesting areas at the base of Mt Elden. 40 engaged community members showed up to walk through the site, including several participants from a neighborhood immediately adjacent to the project area.
Discussion at the interpretive stops included: safety briefing, background of project,equipment and current operations, future rehab work and timeline, slash/prescribed burning, partnerships involved, understory and wildlife response, and community support.
There was extended time for Q&A and deep discussion, with many expressing their “thanks” for providing this field opportunity for this important project. Thank you to our community for coming out to learn more about FWPP and thank you for bringing all the great questions and perspectives. Thank you Karen for being a great field visit leader!
Field tour stop to discuss logging equipment and uses
The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) along with other forest thinning efforts are highlighted in this recent report by the AZ Republic. In addition to FWPP, the article examines other ongoing forest thinning and fire risk reduction efforts in Northern Arizona.
Additionally, the article addresses some of the honest truths about the work FWPP and others are doing. Moving forest thinning forward in challenging terrain and across a large scale is expensive and full of challenges. FWPP would not be possible without the hard work of so many other organizations and dedicated people trying their best, despite the challenges, to move our forests in the right direction. Please take 15 minutes to read about it!
Please join us on June 21st, from 6:30 – 8:00pm at the Green Room in downtown Flagstaff for a screening of the film “Era of Mega Fires”. This film, collaboratively produced by the US Forest Service and North40 Production, discusses the growing trend in large, high severity wildfire across the Western United States.
The film traces the past forest management practices over the last 100 years that have led to the current problem, an “epidemic of trees”. The film discusses several ways local communities can take action to increase the health of the forest, and protect their communities from damaging wildfire.
The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project is featured as a case study in this article published by the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE). The article retraces the history of FWPP and the current status of FWPP implementation. The article also highlights similar projects occuring in Ashland, Oregon and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The article identifies the common successes and challenges of this type of work across the West.
On March 31st, 2018 the US Forest Service reoffered the FWPP Phase 1 (Elden Base) Timber Sale Contract. This 642-acre area is at the base of Mt Elden: it was previously sold but ended with little work completed this past December. The Coconino National Forest will open bids on May 1st, 2018. The sale period is for up to one year.
For further information on this sale, please contact the Flagstaff Ranger District, 5075 N. Hwy 89, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, (928)-527-3600, or the Coconino National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 1827 S. Thompson St. Flagstaff, AZ 86001, (928) 527-3600.
City and FWPP project leadership have produced and released a project update on the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project. The update highlights the work we have done since the start of the project five years ago. Updates includes how much work has occurred and where, how much of the voter approved bond has been used to support the ongoing project, and how much outside, leverage funding has been brought into the project with the help of all our partners.
The project has come a long way since the beginning, and the City team is still working hard as the project continues to be implemented. Take a look at the report!