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

Trail and Area Closures in the Rocky Ridge and Lower Oldham areas in effect until December 31st , 2017

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Due to current and ongoing mechanical forest thinning operations, trail and area closures are in effect. Please be on the lookout for the posted area closures signs, which will indicate specific trail and area closure boundaries. For your safety and the safety of our contractors, please do not enter any closed areas or trails, and do not approach heavy equipment in the area. Please see the “FWPP Area Closure Order” as well as the “FWPP Area Closure Map” for more information.

Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project Celebrates Five Years with Mother Road Brewery

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Contact: Matthew Millar, MMillar@flagstaffaz.gov
Promorional Flier: FWPP 5 Year Invitation

FLAGSTAFF, AZ – The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project is celebrating its 5-year anniversary with a special community event at Mother Road Brewing Co. on Fri, Oct. 13. Since great-tasting beer starts with clean water, there is reason to celebrate a project that reduces fire risk to area watersheds.

The FWPP was approved by city voters through a $10 million bond initiative in November 2012. The project is a partnership effort between city of Flagstaff, the Coconino National Forest, and the state of Arizona to help reduce the risk of severe wildfire and post-fire flooding in critical watersheds.

“FWPP at its core is a community project,” said Mike Elson, Flagstaff district ranger for the Coconino National Forest. “It’s a truly collaborative community approach to a challenge we are all facing together. That’s why we have reason to celebrate, and it’s why we are seen as a model for so many other communities to consider as well.”

The project has achieved significant progress delivering on the initiative’s agenda that was presented to voters in the 2012 general election. An environmental analysis of more than 15,000 acres was completed and approved in the first three years—a triumph for a project of its complexity and size. Over the past five years, crews and contractors have mobilized to implement fuels reduction treatments on nearly 5,000 acres throughout the project footprint, including Observatory Mesa, state lands within the City and on federal land in the Dry Lake Hills area.

“FWPP has put the city of Flagstaff in a national leadership role in demonstrating how local government, in partnership with state and federal agencies, can effectively address wildfire hazard and the protection of critical watersheds,” said Paul Summerfelt, wildland fire management officer for the city of Flagstaff. “This is the first, and only, voter-approved project of its kind in the country, and the citizens of Flagstaff deserve all the credit for making this happen.”

To celebrate the project’s 5-year milestone, Mother Road Brewery created a special batch of “FWPP watershed beer” and will tap it at the anniversary event. This is a special partnership between a local business that uses water for its products and an initiative aimed at preserving critical watersheds and the community’s water supply.

The Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership invites the public to join members of the FWPP in celebrating the project’s progress and success at Mother Road Brewing Co., 7 S. Mikes Pike, from 6–7 p.m. on Fri, Oct. 13. For more information about FWPP, visit http://www.flagstaffwatershedprotection.org.

Drones as a Tool for Modeling Wildfire Risk:Measuring the effectiveness of forest fuel reduction treatment in Flagstaff, AZ Poster

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According to the FWPP Monitoring Plan (2014), voters would like project monitoring to evaluate the following question: “Did the investment effectively reduce the risk of catastrophic fire?” This research aims to help answer the voter question using innovative remote sensing techniques via unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to measure changes in forest structure from forest fuel reduction treatment. The forest structure measurements will be used to model pre- and post-treatment crown fire potential and evaluate the fuel reduction treatment effects on potential fire behavior. For full poster see: P_Shinn_thesis_poster

Firewise Landscape Contest – $1000 in Prizes! Entries Due May 12th!

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The Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership and the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network are hosting a Firewise Landscaping Contest! The contest recognizes homeowners’ efforts in creating a Firewise home in their community, while also demonstrating that Firewise landscaping can be beautiful. The contest is open to residents of the Greater Flagstaff Area, including city and county residents. A total of $1000 in prizes will be awarded to top contestants. Deadline for entry is Friday May, 12th and judging will begin Monday May, 15th. Prizes will be presented at an awards luncheon on May 23rd at the 1899 Bar & Grill on NAU’s campus.

For more info: Click here for flyerL FLC_Contest_Flyer_3_17_17

OR e-mail: Firewiselandscapecontest@gmail.com

May 6th: Harvesting Methods & Wildfire Preparedness Day Open House

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The Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership (GFFP) and its many partners are presenting a Harvesting Methods and Wildfire Preparedness Open House on Saturday, May 6th, from 10:00 A.M. – 1:00 P.M. at the Aquaplex in Flagstaff.

For a flyer, click here: HarvestingMethodsOpenHouseFlyer2017

As the pace and scale of forest restoration efforts increase throughout the area, this is an opportunity for the community to experience and learn about the various timber harvesting methods that will occur on projects, like the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project and the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, and the measures taken by professionals to reduce the risk of severe wildfires in our forests.

Forestry and fire staff from the Forest Service, City, State and many other partners will be on-hand to discuss current and planned thinning operations. Community members will have photo opportunities with Smokey Bear and NAU’s Louie the Lumberjack, real woods loggers and fire fighters, as well as getting close and personal with logging equipment and fire trucks.

Residents will also have the opportunity to gain valuable insight on how to protect their homes, property, and family from wildfire. Other exhibits include: NAU Timber Sports demonstrations, forest treatment operations videos, a kid’s corner, and refreshments. This event is sponsored by the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network and is held in conjunction with the National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.