Forest Service organizing local committee to aid fire planning <br>

Community plans, established under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, provide a way for residents to work with federal land management agencies to establish fire prevention and protection priories.

“Community members will work with the Forest Service to establish their priorities,” said Kaibab National Forest Fire Information Officer Jacqueline Denk.

Under provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), government agencies must gather input from citizens and assess potential impacts before undertaking projects such as the thinning and prescribed burning operations that are part of fire management plans.

“This is a way to get the NEPA process started in advance,” she said.

According to Tusayan District Ranger Rick Stahn, the partnership between the community and Forest Service could also help in other areas.

“This collaboration could help us with the NEPA process on the co-generation plant.”

That project, which is in the midst of a feasibility study, would use a gassification process to break down forest waste and use the resulting fuel to generate electricity.

Stahn said the Forest Service supports the plan as a component of its thinning and burning projects.

“We’re going to burn anyway,” he said. “We need to do it. It’s that or a wildfire. This will remove the heavy material so that there won’t be the duration and intensity of smoke.”

The committee is also essential if the community hopes to get federal funding to assist with protecting the wildland-urban interface and supporting projects on private land.

Through the dialogue with the committee, fire officials hope that residents will become more comfortable with the benefits of fire.

“Fire has a role,” said Stahn. “We’re trying to find that role in the human equation. We’re not going to battle or contest it. We just have to learn how to live with it.”

Residents interested in learning more about the committee can contact the Tusayan Ranger District office at 638-2443.

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