February 15, 2012 – The Wallow Fire, largest wildfire in Arizona’s history, raged through the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest last June charring more than half million acres of precious woodlands. Now, the matchstick-like logs reaching to the sky are vivid reminders of the devastation and a forest forever changed.
The message is clear: everyone benefits from a healthy forest. Now, a group of environmentalists, small business members and government officials have formed an organization called the White Mountain Forest Restoration Partnership (WMFRP) to help raise money to restore the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Recently, the group of concerned stakeholders developed a campaign, “It only takes $1 to see the future,” asking nature lovers and urbanites alike for donations to restore the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The campaign message is designed to let people know that every little bit counts.
Many were reminded by last year’s Wallow Fire of the dangers and dire need for forest treatment. “This is a critical message. What people don’t understand is that a healthy forest is vital to everyone’s quality of life, whether you live in a mountain community or a desert metropolis like Phoenix,” Molly Pitts, Executive Director of the Northern Arizona Wood Products Association, said. “Forests serve as a natural playground where families experience the outdoors together, camping, fishing, hiking, biking and hunting. But, even for those who don’t experience the forest firsthand, they are still affected by the water they drink. Forests also act as nature’s reservoirs, distributing water into our streams and rivers.”
The restoration work under the White Mountain Stewardship Contract was touted for saving towns such as Alpine, Greer and Eagar. The thinning treatment brought the fire from the crowns of the trees down to the ground, allowing firefighters to take control. “We know, and have experienced firsthand with the Wallow Fire, treatment works. Many of us who live in the area see it every day. It is a vivid reminder, the black matchsticks coming down the mountain, turning to brown and then to green before hitting our towns, of what was saved and what was lost,” Pitts said.
Recently the National Forest Foundation (NFF) joined the WMFRP donation efforts as the group’s fiscal partner, providing online donation capacity and advertising. The NFF has also made a commitment to Arizona’s forests by recently adding the region to its Treasured Landscapes forest restoration campaign. “The National Forest Foundation is dedicated to engaging diverse individuals and partners in the stewardship of our treasured National Forests,” said National Forest Foundation Vice President Jennifer Schoonen. “By joining together with the White Mountain Forest Restoration Partnership, we can help give Arizona’s communities and visitors the chance to restore the resources that make the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest a spectacular place to live, work and play.”
The WMFRP group will focus their efforts on campers over the summer by placing posters and distributing brochures at campsites throughout northeast Arizona. “If every forest visitor gave just $1, we would be able to raise a half million dollars toward restoration,” Pitts said.
Last summer’s Wallow Fire near Eagar/Springerville, Alpine and Nutrioso, causing massive evacuations in the area, is all too familiar for residents in the White Mountains. In 2002, the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire raged through the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, scorching almost 500,000 acres of forest land and destroying more than 400 homes. Since 2004, partially as a result of the wildfire, the USDA Forest Service has been proactively restoring the forest to more natural tree densities through the White Mountain Stewardship project. The 10-year project, which removes small-diameter trees, was designed to protect surrounding communities from the threat of wildfires, protect the state’s water reservoirs and develop new markets for wood residue to improve local economies. Since the project’s inception, more than 50,000 acres throughout the White Mountains have been thinned. And the wood collected is sent to local businesses that turn the wood residue into value-added products, including renewable energy in the form of wood pellets. However, with the recent budget cuts and the economic downturn, the Forest Service, local businesses and environmentalists are looking for help to restore the forests in the form of donations.
To donate, you can submit a contribution online or mail it to: National Forest Foundation, Building 27, Suite 3 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804, call toll free 866-773-4NFF or visit www.nationalforests.org. Please note “White Mountain Forest Restoration Partnership” in the online form’s comments section or in your mailed donation. The NFF is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and all donations are tax deductible.