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.
Helicopter logging operations are now active in the Mount Elden and Dry Lake Hills FWPP project area. Markit! Forestry Management, the contractor responsible for managing all of the helicopter logging work, has moved crews and equipment into the project area. Ground crews have been engaged in preparation work, and hand-felling operations within the helicopter cutting units have started.
Logging equipment will be active along
the Shultz Pass and Mt. Elden Lookout Road area. The primary helicopter landing
and service area will be located off the Mt. Elden Lookout Road, behind the
locked forest service gate, on Coconino National Forest land. This road is
closed for the winter season; please do not enter the area due to the active helicopter
operations and for public and operator safety. Noise and visible activity created
by the helicopter flight operations will be present in this area starting in
mid-January and lasting through late spring.
The helicopter flight operations will be
visible in the area as the helicopter lifts and transports bundles of felled
trees from the project area to established landing sites. The helicopter
operations will occur during daylight hours, seven days a week, and for three
to five months depending on operational conditions.
As the helicopter and other FWPP forest
thinning work progresses, forest closure areas restricting public access into
the Mount Elden and Dry Lake Hills area will be implemented. This will include areas
along the Mount Elden Lookout Road, and portions of popular trails like the Rocky
Ridge and Oldham trails. These areas closures will change as operations progress,
and will be strictly enforced. Please respect all closures, and do not approach
logging machinery, helicopters, or heavy equipment at any time. Be Smart, Be
visit the FWPP website for project updates, and join our project email list to receive
the most current information.
FWPP has some exciting news to report this winter! The Phase I portion of FWPP is coming to a close and Dakota Logging has done an excellent job thinning the Elden Base project area. The FWPP Phase II portion of the project is beginning to come online, and work in the Steep Slope areas has already begun. For more details on the completed work in FWPP Phase I, the ongoing work in Phase II, and an outlook for work to come over the next six to twelve months; please read our December 2018 update: FWPP Progress Update December 2018
Additionally, please take a minute to read this recent article on the importance of forest thinning and watershed protection efforts in and around the Flagstaff area: FWPP is an investment. As the threat of large and destructive wildfires continues to increase across the West, so do the threats here in our beloved City. While Flagstaff residents take a moment to enjoy winter and a break from fire season, fire managers and FWPP project staff at the City of Flagstaff and on the Coconino National Forest are already planning forest thinning projects, and preparing for wildland fire response for the upcoming 2019 fire season.
Last week, the Flagstaff Fire Department held a two-day firewood giveaway for area residents. The free firewood was seasoned pine cut last year by the Dept’s Wildland Fire Crew on two sites on the City-owned Observatory Mesa Open Space parcel.
Forest thinning on Observatory Mesa is part of the on-going voter-approved Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project, designed to reduce the threat of damaging wildfire and flooding into the community.
This year’s event drew a record crowd. In all, a total of 627 people, in over 350 vehicles, removed over 300 cords of wood from the two sites. It’s estimated that over 70% of the wood was headed to the Hopi and Navajo Reservations.
“We’re extremely pleased to provide this free wood” said Paul Summerfelt, the City’s Manager for the Watershed Project. Since the Project began in 2013, over 3,200 cords of firewood have been distributed in the fall giveaways.
This past Friday, Senator Jon Kyl, Undersecretary of Agriculture Jim Hubbard, and Acting Deputy Chief of the US Forest Service Chris French visited the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP).
The event was part of a three-stop forest tour orchestrated by Dr Wally Covington and Diane Vosick of NAU’s Ecological Restoration Institute. Hosted by Laura Jo West, Coconino National Forest Supervisor, Erin Carey, Acting Ranger of the Flagstaff District, Vice-Mayor Jamie Whelan, and City FWPP staff, the site visit allowed the visitors to see first-hand on-going operations and learn about status, plans, and needs moving forward.
In addition to the visit, the AZ Daily Sun has written an article discussing the status of FWPP Phase II, and well as highlights from Senator Kyl’s visit. Read it here.
The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project is excited to announce the award of two new contracts for thinning work in the Dry Lake Hills and Mount Elden areas of the project. The two new contract awards are for approximately 900 acres of forest thinning work in steep and complex terrain. The helicopter contract was awarded to Markit! Forestry Management from Colorado Springs, and the steep slope, ground based contract was awarded to Smith Forestry Services Inc. from Albany Oregon. To learn more about the new awards, please read the Official News Release
In addition to the new contract awards, FWPP would like to share the October 2018 FWPP Status Update. This update outlines FWPP areas that are completed, in progress, and planned. It also includes some of our highlighted accomplishments, and the challenges and needs that we continue to address.
Lastly, please take 10 minutes to listen to FWPP personnel discuss the two new contract awards during a recent interview with KAFF Country Radio.
Dakota Logging, the contractor for FWPP Phase I mechanical thinning operations, is moving swiftly through the project area. Due to the continued progress, the Coconino National Forest has issued several new trail closures including portion of the Lower Oldham, Rocky Ridge, and Arizona Trails.
Please see the link below for a detailed map of the project area and trail closures. Please follow the closure signs posted in the area. Thank you for the continued support as FWPP, the City of Flagstaff, and the Coconino National Forest work to create a safe, and ecologically resilient forest and watershed!
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
Since the Coconino National Forest lifted fire restrictions in mid July, FWPP has wasted no time getting to work. Dakota Logging, the FWPP logging contractor for the Phase 1 Elden Base area has been working swiftly to mechanically thin trees and reduce the threat of severe wildfire and post fire flood impacts. Due to the ongoing progress, additional trails in the area have been temporarily closed for the public’s safety. Please see this map for updated trail and project area closures: FWPP Trail Closures 8_15
While Dakota Logging is hard at work, the American Conservation Experience (ACE) has been conducting hand thinning operation in the Dry Lake Hills in the area around Brookbank Meadow. The ACE crew is hand thinning small diameter “ladder fuel” trees in an effort to reduce the risk of severe fire and flooding. The links below contain several pictures that show what each thinning method looks like once complete. Take a look!
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!