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Forest Service sees bipartisan anger in Arizona over killed wildfire prevention contract

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The U.S Forest Service announced the cancellation of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), prompting criticism from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and U.S. Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema.

“The Forest Service blindsided Arizonans with their decision to cancel the long-awaited 4FRI contract,” Kelly said in a press release. “This is unacceptable and is only going to further erode Arizonans’ trust in the Forest Service.”

The 4FRI initiative sought to clear brush from areas of northern Arizona that pose outsized forest fire risks. As more areas were to be thinned of the thick fire hazards, officials hoped to integrate wildfires into the risk management plan. The initiative was intended to treat millions of acres of forested land across the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto National Forests in order to restore ponderosa pine ecosystems in northern Arizona and prevent wildfires.

Forest Service officials were expected to grant the contract for Phase 2 of the project in June to a private logging partner. However, in March, officials announced the number of acres to be treated, and last week, they canceled the contract solicitation for Phase 2.

“Overall, the government’s conclusion is that the requirements for meeting the restoration objectives...are not reasonably aligned to industry needs,” the Forest Service press release read. “In addition, significant financial and investment risks remain which ultimately represents a performance risk to the government.”

Ducey said he was frustrated by the government’s lack of action.

“Every Arizonan has an interest in keeping our forests healthy,” he said in a press release. “Clearly, we cannot and will not wait for the federal government to step up and do their part to protect our communities and address wildfire risks.

The governor referenced the AZ Health Forest Initiative legislation passed in March.

“This program utilizes Arizonans who are serving time to clear forests of debris – making our forests healthier and setting them up for post-release success,” he said.

In their joint press release, Kelly and Sinema said the cancellation will delay the thinning of northern and eastern Arizona forests, placing the state at further risk of forest fires.

“Today’s abrupt decision undermines years of work to protect Arizona communities from wildfires and flooding,” Sinema said. “This reversal comes at a particularly dangerous time for communities across Arizona, as wildfire season gets longer each year.”

She called the Forest Service to assure citizens that they will take action to protect Arizonans from wildfires.

“The federal mismanagement of our forests poses an ongoing risk,” Ducey said. “But Arizonans should know that we remain proactive in our pursuit of forest health and disaster prevention. We will continue to work with federal and community partners and safety personnel to protect people, pets and property.”

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Tags: News, Forest Service, Wildfire, Arizona, State

Original Author: Elizabeth Troutman, The Center Square contributor

Original Location: Forest Service sees bipartisan anger in Arizona over killed wildfire prevention contract

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