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Flagstaff-area forest thinning project ends in failure, only 3 percent done

(Flickr/Mariya Chorna)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A Flagstaff-area forest thinning project fell flat with only 3 percent of the work completed when the contract expired last month.

The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project aimed to have 1 square miles (2.6 sq. kilometers) of ponderosa pine forest near Schultz Creek and the base of Mount Elden mechanically thinned by the end of December, but the contractor only completed work on 20 acres (8 hectares), the Arizona Daily Sun reported Wednesday.

Terry Hatmaker, who held the Mount-Elden area contract which ended Dec. 31, said he had planned to build a sawmill, but he and his partner were unable to secure funds for it and found that the process was going to be lengthier and costlier than they had anticipated.

“My partner and I were both from back East and we didn’t realize just how long it would take and the expense of it,” he said. “We were naive.”

Find a location for the proposed sawmill and meeting permitting requirements also proved to be difficult, Hatmaker said.

“The county, the state and the city seem to want the timber thinned but they don’t want the mess,” he said.

The goal of the entire Flagstaff project is to reduce the risk of severe wildfire and potential post-fire flooding.

Other similar projects in northern Arizona over the past five years such as the Four Forest Restoration Initiative have had similar results.

The Forest Service is required to reoffer the same contract with the same conditions, including a one-year deadline.

The agency expects to advertise the contract within the next two months, said Jessica Richardson, the Forest Service’s coordinator for the Flagstaff project.

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