Letter to the Editor:
Like many others, I have been disturbed over the last few decades to see what has been happening to our forests, mainly because of the failed management policies of the U.S. Forest Service. That is why, as a member of the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors, and now as its chairman, I became involved in the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4-FRI. I believe that it can and will change the way we manage our forests. It has the potential to create healthy, resilient, sustainable forests while at the same time creating jobs and stimulating the economies of our counties and communities. With 4-FRI, we have the opportunity now to reverse the damage that these policies have caused and help the economy at the same time. In my opinion, 4-FRI has been long overdue. Instead of looking at just bits and pieces, it looks at landscape scale projects that are large enough to do some good for the forest. It is a new business model, and I believe it is imperative to make it successful. The health of Arizona's forests is extremely important to the people of Greenlee County. We have watched as wildfires like the Rodeo-Chediski and the Wallow have burned wildlife habitat, property, watersheds and other important and often irreplaceable parts of Greenlee County and Arizona. Starting from a small group of people that had serious concerns over the health of our forests, the 4-FRI was born. The Greenlee County Board of Supervisors supported the effort. We have worked with many other stakeholders for years within the Four Forest Restoration Initiative to address the need for and to build relationships necessary to accomplish landscape scale forest restoration. We have seen and been part of the necessary partnerships between environmental groups, communities and industry. We have all come to see that job creation and environmental protection don't need to be exclusive of one another. Restoring Arizona's forests is something we have to work on together. A 4-FRI contractor's successful bid entails a strong business model centered around small-diameter wood harvesting and utilization, proven technologies, and established markets; the most substantial financial return to the federal government; and a proven ability to actively collaborate and build strategic partnerships with key community and environmental stakeholders. If successful, this will be the beginning of a new way of managing all our forests not only in Arizona, but throughout the West. Hopefully, we will have many contracts in Arizona and throughout the entire West using this profitable model. It is so important that we get this right the first time.
Richard Lunt Chairman of the Board Greenlee County District