SRP’s Healthy Forest Initiative (HFI), a partnership between SRP and the U.S. Forest Service to strategically thin 500,000 acres of overgrown forests by 2035, is getting a helping hand from Terracon, an engineering consulting firm that operates in all 50 states.
The forest thinning in the HFI will aid the watersheds found in the 8.3 million acres of forest in northern and eastern Arizona.
Terracon has donated $10,000 to HFI, becoming the first commercial customer to contribute to do so.
“Terracon has been fortunate to have profitable operations in Arizona for nearly 30 years,” Terracon Senior Client Development Manager Chuck Reynolds said. “In this season of giving, we wanted to impact our community in the broadest, most sustainable way possible.”
SRP says it appreciates the contribution to the important effort to improve the health of forests and watersheds.
“We are grateful for Terracon taking action to invest in the protection and restoration of forests, and we invite other Arizona businesses to partner with SRP on important forest restoration projects,” SRP Forest Health Management Principal Elvy Barton said. “Not only is this important to the Valley’s water supply, but it’s also critical to the state’s tourism industry for the beautiful forests of northern Arizona and helps protect the residents who live there.”
Arizona’s environment has experienced heavy damage from wildfires and water depletion. Wildfires can induce changes in the ecosystem that can put the land and several species at risk. There has been an accumulation of damage that the soil has been unable to recover from, resulting in burn scars that prohibit the soil from absorbing water and nutrients and making the soil susceptible to erosion.
“There is no ‘wildfire season’ anymore in Arizona. Fires can happen year-round. We stress the importance of prevention,” according to the Department of Forestry and Fire Management. “We all need to work together to reduce wildfire risk across our great state.”
In 2020 alone, a total of 2,520 wildfires burned nearly 980,000 acres of land throughout the state. In the last 20 years, wildfires have burned through 3.2 million acres of land surrounding the Salt and Verde River and East Clear Creek watersheds, which are areas of land that channel snowmelt and rainfall into streams and rivers. Watersheds are an important water supply source for Arizona.
In northern Arizona, forested lands should support an average of 100 trees per-acre, but unhealthy forestation has resulted in many of these lands supporting thousands of trees.
The State Fire Assistance under the Department of Forestry and Land Management divides the forest landscape into what are known as firesheds and watersheds. These two are conceptually the same and are used to mark land that is particularly at risk from potential forest fires.
“Given that it is impossible to treat all of the hazardous fuels across a landscape, the identification and prioritization of the most critical and beneficial hazardous fuels to treat is critical,” according to the National Fireshed Assessment Strategy.