National Forest Foundation and SRP agree to 5-year forest restoration agreement

Feb 25, 2024, 11:00 AM | Updated: 2:57 pm

sign of tonto national forest displayed at entrance of recreation site...

SRP and the National Forest Foundation agreed on a five-year plan to improve the health of the Tonto National Forest. (Facebook Photo/U.S. Forest Service-Tonto National Forest)

(Facebook Photo/U.S. Forest Service-Tonto National Forest)

PHOENIX — A five-year agreement was reached between the National Forest Foundation and Salt River Project to reduce the risk of wildfire and ensure a continued water supply to northern Arizona communities.

SRP agreed to donate $500,000 for each of the next five years for forest restoration projects and an additional $25,000 per year to support the NFF’s Wood for Life program.

“We are thrilled for the significant investment in forest and watershed health by SRP as part of NFF’s Northern Arizona Forest Fund, focusing on priority restoration needs across the Salt and Verde watersheds,” NFF senior director of conservation programs Rebecca Davidson said.

Restoration projects

The resources will go toward two restoration projects in the Tonto National Forest called the Pine Creek Canyon Project and Deadman Mesa Mastication Project. They are expected to thin more than 3,000 acres of invasive and “groupy” tree arrangements that help fuel uncontrolled wildfires.

Forest thinning improves the health of the forest and creates opportunities to perform controlled burns. It also helps protect against the damage of watersheds that are critical to providing water throughout the state.

Due to rough terrain, the Pine Creek Canyon Project requires the use of helicopters for log removal.

The projects help protect watershed basins that supply water through the Salt and Verde rivers to the communities of Pine, Strawberry and Randall Place.

The Wood for Life program helps provide wood for Navajo and Hopi tribes that use firewood as fuel to heat their homes.

Project scale

The projected 3,000-plus acres of forest thinning is just the start of a much larger, ambitious, long-term goal for SRP.

“This long-term partnership commitment will help us accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration in northern Arizona and help SRP achieve its forest health goal to help thin 500,000 acres by 2035,” SRP Manager of Water and Forest Sustainability Elvy Barton said.

According to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, more than 7,000 wildfires have burned nearly 2,000,000 acres since 2020.

Arizona state wildfire information:

Year Wildfires Acres burned
2023 1,659 176,939
2022 1,248 145,422
2021 1,774 524,428
2020 2,519 978,519

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National Forest Foundation and SRP agree to 5-year forest restoration agreement