Latest: Arizona forest restoration project falls short

The Four Forest Restoration Initiative was supposed to be the largest such project ever attempted.

  • A prescribed fire in the Kaibab National Forest, one type of forest restoration in the 4FRI plan.

    Brandon Oberhardt/USFS
 

BACKSTORY
In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service undertook the biggest forest-health project ever attempted, on 2.4 million acres of overgrown ponderosa pine in northern Arizona. The Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) aimed to reduce wildfire danger in part by having contractors thin small-diameter trees and produce wood products and biofuel. But continual delays and serious accusations of agency bias and incompetence have plagued the controversial project and its main contractor, Good Earth Power-AZ (“Lost in the woods”, HCN, 9/1/14).


FOLLOWUP
To date, Good Earth has treated just 5,400 acres of forest, after promising in 2013 to thin 30,000 acres per year for 10 years. Now, its subcontractors say the company is skipping payments. In September and October, several trucking companies and former Good Earth employees complained to the Forest Service about delayed or missing payments. The company is also enmeshed in lawsuits with one subcontractor, a timber management company, which claims it’s owed about $3 million.