SW Community Forestry Caucus

State-Level Partnerships


Set along Interstate 40, one hundred miles north of the pine forest of the Mogollon Rim, Holbrook, Arizona is an unlikely place to locate the communications center of the Arizona Sustainable Forests Partnership (ASFP). However, this is the headquarters of the Little Colorado Resource and Conservation District (LC RC&D). For many years, the Little Colorado RC&D has provided assistance to local communities towards building sustainable forest products economies. A principle example of this was the “Small Diameter Action Team,” of the LC RC&D, which arranged a study by Richard Mirth from the Engineering School at NAU in the mid 1990’s. The study showed that a “phenomenal amount of material” needed to come off of the forest, specifically that that over a 30-year period, more wood needed to be removed than was cut when the pulp mill was operating at Snowflake (personal conversation with Bill Greenwood, Town Manager, Eagar, Arizona).

This began a dialogue, which led to a process of organizational development that has produced a high level of collaboration among a wide range of businesses, local governments, federal land managers, and state agencies, including the Arizona governor’s office. After approximately 10 years of study and networking, the ASFP has evolved into a multi-faceted community forestry organization. It is an excellent example of a sub-regional, or state-level, coalition. Within a radius of 100-125 miles in northeastern Arizona, there is a concentration of human, community, and natural resources that facilitates the creation of an active collation of community forestry members.

From its objectives listed below, one can gain a perspective about the strategic and integrated orientation of the ASFP.

• Respond to changes in forest products industry in Arizona, addressing forest restoration activities decreasing the risk of catastrophic wildfire and offering solutions for the promotion of small-diameter timber harvesting and subsequent products.
• Assist individuals and businesses, that previously relied upon large industry, to identify products and markets that utilize existing machinery, equipment and human capital in order to increase economic viability.
• Transition existing forest products industry leaders toward vertically integrated, ecologically sustainable forest management and industry relationship.
• Evaluate the feasibility of revitalizing closed sawmill facilities for the purpose of developing an innovative forest products industry, supported by a procurement cooperative, and a resource sorting facility and development center.
• Enable communities to enhance “capacity building” strategies that encourage diversification of the existing economic base, providing sustainable solutions to employment and environmental issues.

Another indication of the strategic perspective taken by the ASFP is the Arizona Industries of the Future (draft) proposal recently formulated, which includes the following key objectives:

• Create an advocacy group that promotes the Arizona forest and forest products industry, while concurrently communicating to the public on issues such as forest ecosystem health and the merits of purchasing Arizona wood products.
• Create government and financial incentives for private businesses to expand current sustainable forest and wood products, and develop emerging technologies in the forest products industry.
• Assist forest practitioners, wood processors and manufacturers to purchase equipment, expand production and conduct manufacturing assessments, all designed to build long-term sustainment into their efforts.
• Create a research and development program to develop and test improved manufacturing processes and equipment to produce cost-effective, value-added goods from forest restoration materials.

The ASFP is one of the best examples of a state-level, or sub-regional, coalition to improve opportunities in restoration forestry, because of its multi-faceted and broad membership approach. It includes a diversity of partners from state government, to local counties, small wood products businesses, university cooperative extension, and a Small Business Development Center at Northland Pioneer College. It has the benefit of a strong working relationship with a national forest, the Apache-Sitgreaves based in Springerville, Arizona. Within a radius of about 100 miles, there are small and large saw mills (Reidhead and the Fort Apache Tribal Mill) and a variety of wood products enterprises, (Universal Laminators, Forest Energy Corporation, Mountaintop Wood Products, and an association with Arizona Public Service to produce energy from biomass waste materials), all of whom produce an integrated stream of products such as laminated beams, cabinetry, house logs, traditional saw timber, and wood stove pellets (see additional information about wood products under the utilization and marketing section of Part II below).

Key to the success of the ASFP is the dynamics and networking that have been created by a critical mass of partners working together at an appropriate geographic scale. While the partnerships interacts with other organizations and agencies from the Arizona governor’s office to the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership, the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission, and the Natural Resources Working Group (active in the Blue Ridge Demonstration Project near Pinetop), it is able to prioritize its attention on building a social and economic infrastructure for community-based restoration forestry in northeastern Arizona.

Part of the momentum of the ASFP can be attributed to the recent development of a long-term stewardship contract, entitled the White Mountain Stewardship Project (see Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest website). This contract has just recently been awarded to two businesses, Rob Davis of Forest Energy in Show low, and the Walker Bros. in Eagar, Arizona. Together they have formed a limited liability corporation, Forest Futures. Along with some hazard tree salvage work resulting from the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2002, the new long-term stewardship promises to bring much needed sustained access to raw materials in this region.

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