ACE Arizona is assisting with an important effort to thin the fire-prone forest in northern Arizona’s Coconino National Forest. The ACE crew is being led by Matt Donaldson and is working in partnership with the Flagstaff Ranger District.
A century of fire suppression has resulted in dangerously overstocked forests, leaving the forests across the Southwest in a very vulnerable state. Increasing temperatures and decreasing water availability due to climate change has exacerbated this even further.
Fire disturbance is a critical part of the natural cycle and plays a vital role in supporting a diverse complement of plant species and structure. Under ideal conditions forest fires clear the dead and lower branches in the forest allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor. In contrast, historic fire suppression has resulted in a surplus of fuels at the lower levels of the forest, which quickly spreads to the canopy, destroying entire forests.
The goal of this project is to manage the overgrown areas in the Coconino National Forest to prevent these fires from turning catastrophic. The crew is working with the Forest Service’s silviculturist who is writing prescriptions for each area of the forest. The prescriptions are written based on tree size, health and grouping. Part of the work entails remarking previously marked trees as well as marking by these new prescriptions. If you are out hiking in these areas, please note that the trees that are marked are the ones that will not be cut during the forest thinning.
ACE corps members are gaining a thorough understanding of a variety of resource objectives related to wildlife, fire and fuels, timber, recreation, archeology, and soil hydrology. They are also learning how these multifaceted issues all play into the development of prescriptions and the layout of cutting unit boundaries. This project will be continuing though the end of the summer.