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Feds to begin thinning Arizona forest, Sen. John McCain urges water conservation

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PHOENIX — Water has always been like gold in the desert and U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the state needs to do a better job of cutting its water consumption.

“We’re going to have to look at water conservation and things we grow at some point, but, in the meantime, there’s a lot of ways we can save water,” McCain said.

The U.S. Forest Service will begin work Monday on thinning 500 acres of trees in the Prescott area for the next few months and there are hopes that El Nino will start delivering more rain and snow to Arizona soon.

“One (way to conserve water) is to eliminate the salt cedar that uses up so much water. That’s just one example,” McCain said.

In addition to sucking up water, the invasive salt cedar plant burns explosively in wildfires.

Chaparral and small trees north of Groom Creek and east of Goldwater Lake were targeted for thinning.

McCain pointed out that under agreements signed years ago, Arizona would be the first state that would be forced to give up some of its water if the Colorado River levels at Lake Mead reach a point that required it. That isn’t imminent.

The senior senator said forest thinning needs to be stepped up.

“If you’ve had 25 percent of your forests burned in the last 10 years (Edit. note: Arizona has dealt with nine of its top 10 largest wildfires since 2002), it’s obvious you have to the highest priority to forest thinning.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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