2019 – 2023 Mexican Spotted Owl Monitoring Reports for FWPP

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Since 2015, the U.S. Forest Service Coconino National Forest and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are monitoring Mexican spotted owls (MSO) as part of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). FWPP is the result of the 2012 passage of a bond measure by the voters of the City of Flagstaff (City) to fund fuels reduction work on National Forest System lands within the Coconino National Forest and Arizona State trust lands. The project involves work in the Rio de Flag watershed, north of Flagstaff, to reduce the risk of post-wildfire flooding into the City as well as work in the Mormon Mountain area to reduce the potential for post-fire sedimentation within the Lake Mary watershed. Project activities will occur over the next five to ten years.

The project proposes to conduct forest management activities (e.g., thinning, burning, etc.) that may affect up to nine designated MSO protected activity centers (PACs). For more information about the MSO and recommended management, please refer to the Recovery plan for the Mexican Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis lucida), First Revision (USFWS 2012, Recovery Plan). Included in this report are the results of the required 2018 MSO PAC monitoring for the FWPP MSO Management Experiment (USFWS 2015) and recovery habitat (inventory) surveys.


We used the USFWS 2012 Mexican Spotted Owl Survey Protocol (USFWS 2012, Appendix D).

PAC Monitoring Results

Per the FWPP Management Experiment, we are monitoring 11 PACs: six treatment and five reference in the Dry Lake Hills and Mormon Mountain project areas (Tables 1 & 2). Through the objection resolution process, the Forest Service also agreed to monitor three additional PACs. More information is in the FWPP Biological Opinion (USFWS 2015) and the FWPP Record of Decision (USFS 2015a). Due to the uncertainty of timing of treatments, we may monitor PACs annually until they occur.




2021 FWPP MSO Monitoring Report – Final

2022 FWPP MSO Monitoring Report – Final

2023 FWPP MSO Monitoring Report – Final

Museum Fire update – Mon July 29th

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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. 

Forest Closure Information

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For the latest Forest Closure information affecting trails and roads within the Dry Lake Hills area, visit the USFS, Peaks Ranger District, 5075 N. Hwy 89, Flagstaff AZ 86004 or call 928.526.0866

FWPP Closure Order February 2019

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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:

To read the official Area Closure document, please see below:

Be Smart!

Be Safe!

New Closure Order goes into effect across FWPP

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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:

  • Brookbank Trail
  • Elden Lookout Trail
  • Little Bear Trail
  • Little Elden Trail
  • Little Gnarly Trail
  • Lower Oldham Trail
  • Rocky Ridge Trail
  • Schultz Creek Trail
  • Sunset 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.

Ranger Walk: A Field Visit of FWPP

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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