U.S. SENATE—Today, U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) pressed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the mismanagement of forests in Arizona.
During a U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing to examine the president's Fiscal Year 2020 budget request, McSally requested from Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen specific and measurable updates on a timeline to manage Arizona’s forests.
“I am proud to say my state of Arizona is home to one of the most innovative approaches to forest management in the country – the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI,” said McSally. “4FRI is a collaborative effort to thin 1 million acres across four of Arizona’s national forests...To date, progress under Phase 1 has been disappointing, to say the least, with barely 11,000 acres thinned since 2012. Now, the Forest Service is developing a Request for Proposal for Phase 2 of 4FRI, which could run as large as 500,000 acres.
“We hope that you all will learn from the mistakes made in Phase 1 and award a contract that will expeditiously remove the low-value timber from our fire-prone forests at large, landscape-scale levels. Could you tell me today when the Phase 2 RFP will be released so we can get moving on this project?”
“It can’t be business as usual if we’re going to get in front of the big needs that we need to create better conditions on the land,” replied Christiansen. “So, you’re absolutely right, we had a lot of learning. This is big scale. This is more cleared NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] acreage than we’ve ever had and attracting infrastructure in the private sector is tricky. Thanks to Congress, we now have the 20-year authority for stewardship agreements and of course now, that’s what we’re setting up for this RFP. We’ve worked through the federal acquisition regulation protocols and we now have the ability to have both the Salt River Project, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Arizona Commerce Commission and we’re still talking very closely with Arizona Forestry and Fire about having a seat at the table and evaluating this RFP because we know we need big thinkers we need to do this right and we can’t fail again.”
“Great,” responded McSally. “Do we have a timeline?”
“Yes, it will be out by June and then we hope to have the evaluations out a couple months after that,” said Christiansen.
On February 19, McSally visited the White Mountains and spoke about the important of forest management as a part of her 15-county listening tour.
On March 12, McSally and U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) sent a letter to Christiansen asking for an update on the development of the Phase 2 Request for Proposal for the Four Forests Restoration Initiative.
On March 22, McSally met with community leaders in Coconino National Forest on her 15-county listening tour to discuss ongoing efforts to reduce wildfire risk and protect forests through the Flagstaff Watershed Protection project.
CLICK HERE to download McSally’s questioning.