WHITE MOUNTAINS — The Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) is an ongoing collaborative, landscape-scale initiative designed to restore 2.4 million acres of fire-adapted ecosystems in the Apache-Sitgreaves, Tonto, Coconino, and Kaibab National Forests.
Reducing destructive wildfires is one of the main goals, as is creating and developing sustainable wood products industries. Other goals include restoring the forests to healthy conditions, springs and stream projects, planting for trees, meadow restoration, road and trail work (construction, maintenance, and decommissioning), and more.
Mechanical thinning and prescribed fires are the main two ways of reducing the overloaded forests of dense foliage and small trees that can increase fire danger.
4FRI includes the Forest Service, and various groups, organizations, and citizens of the area. They work together to get the contracts issued and the restoration efforts accomplished.
While the initial goal of treating 50,000 acres a year hasn’t been reached during the eight years of the initiative, there has been some progress and 4FRI releases a monthly report of that progress.
The July, 2018 report states that from 2010 to 2017 185,899 acres have been mechanically thinned and 442,952 have been treated with prescribed fire and wildfire management. In 2018 the total acres treated with both of the above are 77,395 acres. There are 91,364 acres under contract at this time that are still waiting to be harvested.
In the Phase 1 contract, the number of project acres total for the four forests from 2013 to 2016 was 53,957. The Coconino and the Kaibab are considered the “west side” and had 47,472 acres completed. The “east side” which is the Apache-Sitgreaves and the Tonto had only 6,472 acres, though there has been other thinning completed outside of the 4FRI contract on these two forests.
Besides the 4FRI contracts, the Forest Service is working on thinning and restoration projects that don’t fall under 4FRI. These “task orders” are multi-year contracts that extend to 2022. The total numbers of acres harvested from the 39 contracts are 11,446 with 48,023 acres remaining to be harvested under the terms of the contracts. These contracts range in size from 200 acres to 5,000 acres and are awarded to various local contractors and industries.