Despite a two-year planning and Request for Proposals process, the United States Forest Service has announced it will restart the Four Forest Restoration Project’s planned Phase 2 process.
Stakeholders in the process expressed shock and anger at the announcement.
At issue is a contract to thin hundreds of thousands of acres of northern Arizona forest land. The contract was originally planned to be awarded this summer.
The overall project seeks to reduce the risk of wildfire on millions of acres in the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests. Some stakeholders are now concerned about the future of the entire project.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly all criticized the cancellation.
The USFS statement claimed the current contract was too risky to succeed and did not sufficiently address industry partners’ needs. The most recent version of the contract covered more than 500,000 acres a company would have been contracted to thin. USFS, however, provided no guarantees to potential contractors in the event a portion of the area was reduced by wildfire or other circumstances.
Critics say the Service should have understood the potential risks earlier in the process and either changed or cancelled the RFP process before bidders made significant process investments. USFS now intends to solicit input from partners and stakeholders and create a second contract and process “quickly.” (Source)