Tree thinning, drying rates, and insects!

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One of the most costly aspects of thinning around the Flagstaff area is the cost to transport the wood material. One idea is to allow cut trees to remain in the forest, giving them time to dry. As they lose moisture, they will also become less heavy which may present an opportunity to reduce the cost of transportation. See a preliminary report from an NAU School of Forestry graduate student exploring this question: Bundles Beetles – All sites complete report for Spring Summer and Fall 2017

2018 FWPP Project Update

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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!

Full report:

FWPP Status Update CCR – Update 02082018

FWPP partners with local and national organizations for a successful collaboration!

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During the summer and fall of 2017, the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project was able to participate in a new collaborative project to help implement our watershed protection work! In partnership with the National Forest Foundation (NFF), American Conservation Experience (ACE), and the Coconino National Forest, we were able to complete an additional 115 acres of hand thinning across the FWPP project area.

Through this collaborative, ACE was able to hire, train, and deploy 8 young and emerging conservationist to implement the work. The ACE crew used chainsaws to cut, limb, and pile small diameter “ladder fuel” trees from the forest to help reduce the risk of high severity wildfire in the lower Dry Lake Hills area along the Rocky Ridge trail.

Please take a few minutes to learn about how ACE contributed to the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project and hear their unique stories in this mini documentary that they created for our collaborative project.

 

Putting Fire Back Into the Forest: 2017 Prescribed Fire on Observatory Mesa

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In early November of 2017, a group of wildland firefighters and forest managers came together to support the common goal of making our forest healthier; by reintroducing fire back into the ecosystem. The City of Flagstaff Fire Department, The Nature Conservancy, Summit Fire District, members of the Bear Jaw Fire Crew, and a group from the Northern Arizona University chapter of the Association for Fire Ecology (SAFE), all participated in the 2 day, prescribed fire operations within the Observatory Mesa Natural Area.

(Watch as wildland fire crews put low severity fire back into the forest during the 2017 prescribed fire operation Observatory Mesa RX 2)

Historically, this type of low severity fire was no stranger to the ponderosa pine forest ecosystem of the Southwest. For centuries, this frequent, and low severity fire regime would clean the forest floor of dense small trees and woody debri, recycle important nutrients, and support a biodiverse forest resilient to drought, insect attacks, and disease.

Prescribed fire is only one part of forest management in our area. In many parts of our forests, fire crews and forest managers must first thin our overcrowded forest, before they are able to safely reintroduce fire. For several years, City staff, forest managers, and community partner organizations have been working together to do this as part of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). The operations on Observatory Mesa serve as a great example of what is possible, when a diverse group of organizations supported by the community of Flagstaff, come together to keep our forests healthy.

(Watch more low severity, surface fire during the Observatory Mesa prescribed fire operation Observatory Mesa RX 3)

NAU School of Forestry assisting with FWPP monitoring efforts

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FWPP and the NAU School of Forestry are working together to develop Observatory Mesa into an outdoor learning laboratory for future forest managers and scientists! Beginning in Fall of 2017, the ‘Forest Ecosystem Assessment class’ will be establishing permanent forestry plots across Observatory Mesa (Monitoring plots across Obervatory Mesa).

The plots will be used to gather a range of biophysical monitoring data that will be compiled and tracked for multiple years to come. The monitoring data will include variables such as ground fuel, coarse woody debris, understory vegetation and shrubs, tree density and volume, and standing dead trees (snags). Photo points will also be established to visually track forest changes over time.

The goal of the project will meet two major objectives; 1) to provide undergraduate NAU forestry students with technical knowledge, skills, and experience in gathering biophysical data, analyzing, and interpreting ecological data and 2) to provide a long term monitoring project for FWPP to track the effects of forest thinning activities on Observatory Mesa over time. Thank you NAU School of Forestry professors and students who have made this possible! We look forward to seeing the initial data that you collect this Fall.

NAU School of Forestry students collecting monitoring data on Observatory Mesa

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FWPP forest treatments helping reduce the risk of high severity wildfire

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On the afternoon of October 25th, 2017, the Flagstaff Fire Department and resources from the Coconino National Forest responded to reports of a wildfire on city owned land within the Observatory Mesa Natural Area. The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but given the location, a human caused ignition is suspected. The Miller Fire occurred in a forested area on Observatory Mesa that had been aggressively thinned in 2015 as part of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). Based on the known pre-treatment disorder, and current weather and fire conditions at the time of ignition, the fire would have been much worse in terms of size, severity, duration, cost, and difficulty to control.

The FWPP treatment in this area has created a forest structure that is resilient to high severity wildfire, and allowed firefighters to respond, engage, and manage the wildfire in a safe and effective manner. Moving forward, and as conditions allow, the Flagstaff Fire Department is planning to conduct prescribed burns within Observatory Mesa this Fall, 2017.

Please see the following link for a map of the work done on Observatory Mesa, and the location of the Miller Fire. Observatory Mesa Miller Fire Location