FLAGSTAFF Ariz. - Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona in the fall of 2013 will be a newly constructed wood products mill from Pioneer Forest Products, the company contracted by the Forest Service to thin out and restore 300,000 acres of forestland as part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI).
This is the largest stewardship contract in the Forest Service's history and begins a 20-year plan to restore 2.4 million acres of ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona.
"This is an enormous step in restoring the health and sustainability of our forests," said Earl Stewart, Coconino National Forest Supervisor. "This contract will help us achieve the goal of setting our forests and economies on a path of recovery."
The 4FRI is a collaborative effort to restore forest ecosystems on portions of four national forests - Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Tonto - along the Mogollon Rim. More than 30 stakeholder organizations make up the 4FRI and their plan for restoration is endorsed by the Forest Service, conservationists, scientists, local governments, and industry leaders. This restoration-based thinning endeavor will improve forest health, reduce the risk from wildfires to communities, create jobs, and improve local economies.
"This contract and the 4FRI effort were designed to meet northern Arizona's ecological needs and the collaboratively developed vision of healthy, sustainable forests in the face of a changing climate," said Marcus Selig, Co-Chair of the 4FRI Stakeholder Group. "Cost-effective implementation of that vision is dependent upon this contract, which is intended to build a wood products industry that can help offset treatment costs."
The wood mill in Winslow is expected to employ 600 people, with another 400 employed logging and trucking approximately 30,000 acres a year for 10 years. The first 5,000 acres will be logged this year. At the mill the ponderosa pine timber, five inches in diameter and larger, will be converted into non-commodity, high value lumber, and laminate wood panels used for doors, windows, furniture, cabinetry, and specialty components.
Pioneer CEO Herman Hauck said the mill should be running at full capacity at the end of 2013 and hopes to stay there indefinitely.
"The initial contract's for 10 years, but there are big expectations for extensions," said Hauck.
Marlin Johnson from the Forest Service out of Albuquerque, New Mexico has teamed up with Pioneer.
"Marlin Johnson will eventually be a partner of our company and he will be the forestry representative, and he is handling all the forestry issues for me," said Hauck.
Pioneer will use a portion of the slash from the forest operations and mill waste to fire the kiln used to dry the material. They will use the remainder to create bio-diesel fuel at a bio-diesel plant built as part of the overall operation. Pioneer Forest Products was selected by the Forest Service, in part, because it is an appropriately-scaled, community-based industry capable of removing small diameter trees to help offset forest restoration treatment costs.
Hauck said Pioneer selected Winslow because of its strategic location within a centralized location to the four forests that are to be treated. In addition, this location is a significant shipping corridor using Interstate 40 for over the road trucks and the extensive rail network of the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe (BNSF). This provides a doorway into the local, national, and global markets for Pioneer's very unique products, all of which will be manufactured from the wood fiber of the 4FRI contract.
In addition, since small diameter trees and logs will be the main focal point for this project, local mills already established in northern Arizona are not expected to have a shortage of logs for their operations. The most important purposes of this contract, as issued by Pioneer, will be realized by moving forward on thinning the forest to avoid the catastrophic forest fires of the past, and put Arizona to work using this natural resource as the economic catalyst.
"The importance of this contract cannot be overstated," said Arthur "Butch" Blazer, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. "It will help meet Secretary Vilsack's vision for increasing the size and pace of restoration and will make a difference not only on the landscape, but also to people and communities across Arizona.
Treatments under this contract and other ongoing efforts in Arizona's national forests are expected to produce a large enough wood supply to support existing industries in the White Mountains and build new industries supported by Pioneer Forest Products.
For additional information visit the Forest Service website at www.fs.usda.gov/4fri or the 4FRI Stakeholder Group website at www.4fri.org.
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