By Felicia Fonseca for Arizona Daily Sun
The U.S. Forest Service, faced with the slow pace of forest thinning, is seeking proposals to remove dense stands of trees in a wide swath of Arizona to help prevent wildfires.
The work is part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, the largest project of its kind within the Forest Service. It eventually will cover 3,750 square miles along a prominent line of cliffs that divides Arizona’s high country from the desert.
The bidding opened Monday for work on up to 1,278 square miles in parts of the Kaibab, Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests. The proposals are due December 16th. Contracts would be awarded in April.
“The intent of the RFP is to support existing industry, attract new sustainable industry and to significantly increase the pace and scale of forest restoration while creating jobs, restoring our forests, protecting communities and downstream water supplies,” regional forester Cal Joyner said in a statement.
The Forest Service set a goal of having 78 square miles mechanically thinned each year, but only about a third of that has been done on average.
The Forest Service won’t be alone in reviewing the proposals. The Salt River Project, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, the Arizona Commerce Authority and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation helped develop the bidding materials and will help vet submissions.
Contracts can run up to 20 years, made possible by provisions in 2018 federal legislation on forest management. The bill also allows the Forest Service to give preference to bidders who propose innovative solutions for making forests healthier.
Read more at Arizona Daily Sun.