Thinning Project Boosts Forest Health In White Mountains

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In 2004, the USDA Forest Service awarded Future Forest LLC with the White Mountain Stewardship Project (WMSP) — a 10-year contract that has resulted in healthier forests, protection for local communities, enhanced rural development, and the use of previously unmarketable small diameter trees.

Under the direction of the Forest Service, the WMSP has thinned more than 40,000 acres in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests since 2004. The project aims to create local jobs and use all residual tree fiber, reducing the need for residual pile burning and its accompanying costs.

The White Mountain project created an estimated 319 jobs directly and indirectly and contributing an estimated $40 million to the local communities with investments, expenditures and tax revenues.

In addition, the wood residue collected during the thinning, is being used for green products including for renewable energy in the form of electricity and thermal energy.

Forest Energy, located in Show Low, utilizes the chipped and dried wood to create thermal energy in the form of wood pellets, which are sold in big box stores, such as The Home Depot, Costco, Ace and Lowes. In addition, many independent hearth products dealers throughout the West and Southwest now sell the wood pellets. The pellets create a clean alternative energy source for hundreds of thousands of homes. The pellets are also being utilized by commercial buildings for heating, including the Eagar Town Hall.

The Snowflake White Mountain Power Plant began providing clean power from organic waste back in 2008. This 24 MW biomass plant purchases the wood waste from the WMSP. The use of this wood along with local green waste sites and recycled paper sludge from an adjacent newsprint mill is used to generate enough electricity to power 24,000 homes.

“This stewardship project is a win-win solution for everyone. We remove smaller diameter ponderosa pines which act as fuel for a wildfire and leave the larger trees giving them room to grow and thrive,” said Future Forest Partner Dwayne Walker. “So, in essence, we are helping sustain a healthy forest and in the process, providing green products and supporting the economies of two of the poorest counties in Arizona.”

Many  other  green businesses utilize the wood residue, including Reidhead Lumber who produces products that are incorporated in green building and High Country Green Waste who takes in the wood waste and turns it into mulch.

For more information on businesses involved in the White Mountain Stewardship Project, visit the Northern Arizona Wood Products Association at www.nawpa.org. For more information about the project, visit www.futureforest.info.

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