September 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a landmark law that helped protect some of America’s last great wild country and created 90 protected wilderness areas in Arizona. Now, you can help protect the state’s wilderness areas, too. With each new Arizona Highways subscription purchased using promo code M3WILDC, we’ll donate $5 to the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. To subscribe, visit http://www.arizonahighways.com.
Category Archives: Eco Issues
From our friends at the U.S. Forest Service:
“Today’s announcement is part of the USDA for all Seasons campaign, which seeks to educate the public on all the ways the department’s agencies programs help communities and their economies every day,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “America’s national forests and grasslands belong to all of us. These beautiful places have so much to offer, and we hope you’ll get outside and volunteer on National Public Lands Day to enjoy these places for yourself, while improving them for future visitors.”
The Forest Service offers six fee-free days in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Get Outdoors Day, National Public Lands Day and Veterans Day Weekend. Fees are waived generally for day use areas, such as picnic grounds, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers. Fees are not waived for concessionaire-operated facilities or for overnight use such as camping or recreation rentals. Contact your local national forest to learn if your destination requires a fee and if that fee is waived.
In 2012, about 175,000 volunteers worked at 2,206 sites in every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, making it the largest participation in the event’s history. Those volunteers collected an estimated 500 tons of trash and 23,000 pounds of invasive plants, planted 100,000 trees and other plants and built or maintained 1,500 miles of trails.
Additionally, almost 108,000 volunteers and service members contributed 4.3 million hours or nearly 2,400 person years on critical projects on national forests, grasslands and prairies. Their service was valued at close to $94 million.
Forest Service lands, which include 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, offer something for everyone, from the casual hiker to the thrill-seeking recreationist. There are also opportunities and programs for children, including the popular Discover the Forest and Junior Forest Ranger programs.
We just received word that Havasu Canyon, on Havasupai tribal land near the bottom of the Grand Canyon, will be closed until August 6 because of flooding. The closure includes the village of Supai and all camping areas. If you have camping reservations during the closure, contact the tribe’s Camping Office at 928-448-2141. If you have reservations at Havasupai Lodge, call 928-448-2201.
Arizona is still mourning the June 30 loss of 19 “hotshot” firefighters in the Yarnell Hill Fire, and while it will be a while before we know exactly what happened, we do know that the fire spread very quickly — much like the other recent wildfire in the Prescott area. That blaze, the Doce Fire northwest of Prescott, is now almost fully contained, as is Yarnell Hill. But if previous fire seasons are any indication, these won’t be the only dangerous wildfires Arizona faces this year.
As detailed in a recent Associated Press story, reduced federal funding for “fuels reduction” programs, such as prescribed burns, could make wildfires more severe and difficult to fight. Before the Yarnell Hill Fire broke out, we spoke with Cathie Schmidlin, a Southwestern Region spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, to learn how budget cuts could affect Arizona this fire season.
If more money had been spent on prevention, might Arizona’s recent wildfires have been less severe, or easier to control?
When wildfires occur, a lot of factors come into play, including weather, fuels conditions and terrain, so it isn’t really possible to speculate about [specific wildfires]. What we do know is that we have many examples of places, including Arizona, where reducing hazardous fuels has helped moderate fire behavior, made fires easier to control and made it easier for firefighters to protect lives, homes, and communities.
In 2006, the Forest Service initiated a program to evaluate the effectiveness of prescribed fire and mechanical treatments designed to reduce the risk of wildfire. When a wildfire starts within, or burns into, a fuel-treatment area, an assessment is conducted to evaluate the resulting impacts on fire behavior and fire suppression actions. In 2011, the Forest Service made the effectiveness assessment mandatory whenever a wildfire impacts a previously treated area.
Results show that, of almost 1,200 cases in the database, 93 percent of the fuel treatments were effective in changing fire behavior or helping with control of the wildfire; 56 percent of these fuel treatments were effective in helping keep wildfires less than 10 acres; and 61 percent were effective in helping keep wildfires less than 20 acres.
Because our capacity to treat fuels with prescribed fire and mechanical treatments is not adequate to restore all national-forest lands in need, it is especially important that wildfire itself be used as a tool, where possible, to restore forests. Appropriate wildfire response can include a range of actions from aggressive suppression to confinement, point protection and monitoring.
Are there areas of Arizona that could benefit from more prevention funding?
An emphasis, for more than a decade, in Arizona has been to treat hazardous fuels to reduce the risk of unwanted fire on communities, livelihoods, municipal watersheds and infrastructure. Treatments are focused in areas where risk is high, risk can be effectively mitigated, and communities are committed to implementing changes to become more fire-adapted.
Areas of focus in Arizona include the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (Coconino, Kaibab, Tonto, and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests), White Mountain Stewardship (Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests) Rim Communities (Tonto National Forest), Flagstaff Watershed Restoration Plan (Coconino National Forest), and Prescott Basin (Prescott National Forest).
We’ve had two gigantic wildfires (Rodeo-Chediski and Wallow) in the last decade. If funding cuts continue, could we be looking at another Wallow Fire somewhere else in Arizona in the near future?
The Wallow Fire actually was less severe due to treatments. The fire became easier to control in several areas that had been treated near Alpine, enhancing firefighters’ ability to protect property there.
We really can’t speculate about the impact of any future funding reductions. Reducing hazardous fuels is key to reducing the risk of extreme wildfires, and we will continue to do our best with the funds we have available.
The role and importance of fire in Southwestern forests is well-documented. Fire history (footprint of fire) directly affects fire severity, and it serves as a metric in anticipating future fire severity.
—Noah Austin, Associate Editor
As wildfires burn across the state, we’re sad to report that one of the campgrounds featured in our Summer Camping Guide (July 2013) is currently closed and under an evacuation order due to the Dean Peak Fire. Hualapai Mountain Park, near Kingman, was evacuated Tuesday, and the fire has spread to more than 4,000 acres. Wild Cow Springs Campground, also in the Hualapai Mountains and which is included in the Arizona Highways Camping Guide, is closed until further notice. The lightning-sparked fire began Friday afternoon. For more information, visit http://www.inciweb.org/incident/3463/.
As you know, the wildfire in Yarnell has not only devastated the tiny Arizona town near Prescott; on Sunday afternoon, it also claimed the lives of 19 hotshot firefighters, making Sunday the deadliest day for firefighters in the U.S. since September 11, 2001.
Yesterday, Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo read the names of the 19 fallen heroes. We honor your service and we pray that you will never be forgotten. May you each rest in peace.
– Andrew Ashcraft, 29
– Kevin Woyjeck, 21
– Anthony Rose, 23
– Eric Marsh, 43
– Christopher MacKenzie, 30
– Robert Caldwell, 23
– Clayton Whitted , 28
– Scott Norris, 28
– Dustin Deford, 24
– Sean Misner, 26
– Garret Zuppiger, 27
– Travis Carter, 31
– Grant McKee, 21
– Travis Turbyfill, 27
– Jesse Steed, 36
– Wade Parker, 22
– Joe Thurston, 32
– William Warneke, 25
– John Percin, 24
There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently than ten
They are messengers of overwhelming grief…
and unspeakable love.
Words can’t convey how saddened we are by this horrific tragedy, and like so many of you in Arizona and across the country, we want to help.
Below is a list of organizations that are accepting donations both for the families of the 19 firefighters and for the residents of Yarnell, many of whom lost their homes to the blaze.
As for the fire, it has consumed more than 8,000 acres and is currently at zero percent containment.