Forest Service plans thinning project <br>

Forest Service silviculturist Mark Herron explains the benefits of thinning during a public meeting held April 8.

The Forest Service kicked off a two-year planning process April 8 with a public meeting in Williams intended to solicit ideas, questions and concerns to consider while planning its fuels reduction program around Williams. The treatment area would potentially run from south of Bill Williams Mountain to north of the city and from east of High School Hill in a westerly direction toward Signal Hill.

Forest officials point to current projects currently underway or in planning stages as proof they’re taking more immediate action. Those six projects will thin or burn more than 30,000 acres over the next five to seven years, said Jackie Denk, a fire information officer for the Kaibab National Forest.

She also said the two-year studying process for the Williams City Project is necessary due to various complexities involved.

“This project, just because of its size and the fact that includes such sensitive areas such as Bill Williams Mountain and the water shed and the ski area, there’s a lot of pieces to this project that need to be looked at very carefully before we can move forward,” said Denk. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not moving forward on other projects in the area.”

In fact, forest officials hope local residents’ desire for quicker action will help move the project along, Denk said.

Officials will put together a project proposal based on public input, which will be presented to the public later on, Denk said.

Fuels reduction programs combine controlled burns with tree removal to promote forest health and to reduce the risk of catastrophic forest fires, said Williams District Ranger Susan Skalski.

“Both techniques, when used correctly, can go a long way in forest health and safety,” said Denk.

Officials encourage area homeowners to assess the fire danger on their own property. Taking action, such as removing trees and pine needles near a house, can help protect it from fire.

The Williams City Council resolved to support the Forest Service thinning plans at an April 10 council meeting.

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