This illustrates the disconnect between forest health and our normal course of activity.
In this month’s article, we explore how healthy forests support a healthy economy by providing opportunities for work, enhancing tourism and enabling us all to enjoy outdoor recreational activities.
Coconino County, in partnership with the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Prescott National Forests, have enacted Stage Fire Restrictions to mitigate the public safety risk of catastrophic fire and subsequent disastrous flooding, which pose a possible threat for years post-wildfire. It is all too easy to miss how our local economy’s health is linked with our forest’s health, as the connection between having an open campfire and logging trucks is rarely made.
To test this point, picture the last time you, your friends and family gathered around an open charcoal BBQ or campfire to grill hotdogs and burgers while avoiding the smoke that seems to follow you no matter where you stand. Now, picture the part of your conversation where you spoke of how great it was that loggers were treating the local forests, thinning the small trees and reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
Now, for most people, picturing the BBQ and campfire is easy, but remembering the conversation about lumberjacks, log truck drivers and sawmills is difficult. This illustrates the disconnect between forest health and our normal course of activity. Seeing how unhealthy forests can lead to increased threats to our communities as well as restrictions of our individual recreational activities, we can now discuss how supporting forestry operations helps to improve our community health.
One of the primary efforts by Coconino County is its Forest Restoration Initiative, which has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) in May 2021. This recent national award signifies the effectiveness of a county government program as it relates to county resiliency: infrastructure, energy and sustainability.
NACo President Gary Moore said, “Over the past year, county officials and frontline employees have demonstrated bold, inspirational leadership. This year’s Achievement Award winning programs illustrate the innovative ways counties build healthy, safe and vibrant communities across America.”
While the county leads through its programs, the partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service, Greater Flagstaff Forest Partnership, NAU’s Ecological Restoration Institute and private forest products industry players are critical. They are the impactful organizations that are doing the yeoman’s work when it comes to improving forest health and quality of life for our communities. Job creation comes from the partnership of these organizations as they protect our forests and valuable watersheds, preserve our regional ecosystems, and manage the timber resources that build our homes and package our goods for transportation. These organizations represent the gears of commerce, which drive a higher quality of life for residents of Coconino County.
Community support of these organizations takes many forms, from paying to use the goods and services they provide, like annual National Forest Access Passes and firewood permits and camping in established campgrounds, to finding ways to do increased business-to-business with the forestry product manufacturers. Support comes in non-monetary forms as well, such as community goodwill toward the forestry workers who are managing the forest ecosystems with selective thinning and ground erosion protection work. These active forestry workers, log truck drivers, sawmill operators and heavy equipment operators are doing their work to protect our community, so the wildland firefighters don’t need to be called in to do their work.
Community support of forest restoration initiatives and private and public organizations that create jobs while protecting our natural renewable resources and personal property from the destructive forest fires is more important than ever. These initiatives and organizations create jobs while also protecting our natural renewable resources and personal property from destructive forest fires.
With Phase 2 of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), logging contractors are expected to be announced soon and there will be more forest activity, more thinning operations and more haul trucks on the roads. As operations become full tempo, it is expected that 1,000 new local jobs will be created. These new jobs will be paying $20 to $30 an hour to the local men and women who will be operating the equipment and machinery that will be protecting our local economy by way of caring for our forests’ health.
So, next time you are able to enjoy a charcoal BBQ or open campfire, take a few moments to talk about those forestry workers who keep that possible.
For those interested in the Coconino County Forestry Restoration Initiative, email our Forest Restoration Director Jay Smith at email@example.com
To learn more about specific business opportunities, please feel free to connect with me by email or phone. FBN
By Chris Pasterz
Chris Pasterz is the economic development manager for Coconino County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 928-679-7134.