Sinema dissatisifed, requests Arizona forests be thinned

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks after being declared the winner over Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Martha McSally in 2018. Sinema has issued to the USFS a request for proposals to thin National Forest Service land in Arizona. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks after being declared the winner over Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Martha McSally in 2018. Sinema has issued to the USFS a request for proposals to thin National Forest Service land in Arizona. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

BULLHEAD CITY — Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema has issued to the United States Forest Service a request for proposals to thin National Forest Service land in Arizona.

Forest thinning involves plants or parts of plants being removed to make room for the growth of others. It also may be done to increase the resistance of environmental stress such as drought, insect infestation, extreme temperature or wildfire.

In a prepared statement, Sinema said she is dissatisfied by the Forest Service’s progress in achieving the original goals of the Four Forests Restoration Initiative, which includes mechanically restoring 1 million acres of national forest lands in Arizona to their natural, fire-resilient state.

4FRI is made up of individuals and groups including members of local, county and state governments, environmental groups, organizations, institutions and industry representatives. 4FRI was created to accelerate an ambitious restoration program to improve watershed health, improve wildlife habitat, conserve biodiversity, protect old-growth forest, reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wild land fire and promote the reintroduction of natural fire and restore natural forest structure and function so that forests are more resilient to climate change.

In the prepared statement, Sinema said under Phase 1 of 4FRI, the Forest Service issued an RFP that contemplated industry-driven thinning on 300,000 acres in Arizona over a 10-year term. Since 2012, the primary 4FRI stewardship contractor, Good Earth Power, has thinned only about 12,000 acres.

“Phase 2 RFP offers the Forest Service an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and get 4FRI back on track,” Sinema said. “The RFP will benefit from a provision that we supported as part of the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act that authorizes 20-year stewardship agreements, which will provide the industry with greater certainty when investing in large, landscape-scale restoration projects.

“The time is right for the Forest Service to develop an RFP that is designed to build, attract and empower industry to accelerate the removal of low-value timber from our fire-prone forests. We ask the Forest Service to engage and remain engaged with state and local stakeholders in the crafting of the RFP as well as their consulting during the review and award process as appropriate.”

Sen. Martha McSally joined Sinema in requesting the development of the Phase 2 RFP for 4FRI.

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