Forest thinning closes trails around Flagstaff

The Coconino National Forest says this $10 million project will help reduce the risk of wildfire and flood damage.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Coconino National Forest began timber harvesting this week for the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project.

The Forest Service said the work it was doing upstream from downtown would help prevent a flash flood from ripping through there via Rio de Flag and other waterways.

All the logging is just a short walk from Alida Dierker’s front door -- so were the trails she and her horse, Gallawoy, have enjoyed for 35 years.

“It’s going to be really challenging for a while, yeah, because it really restricts where you can go,” Dierker said.

These closures are part of the $10 million Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project.

Coconino National Forest Ranger Mike Elson said this work is covered by a bond, “because the value of the timber is not nearly enough to offset the cost of the work.”

Elson said the greatest value in the nearly 10,000 acres to be thinned is  in what the work will protect.

“We don’t want the high-intensity fire that gets into the crown and kills all the trees and really bakes the soil and creates the high likelihood of flooding,” Elson said.

In the summer of 2010, the Dierkers saw an explosion of smoke. It was the Schultz Fire.

“It was up here on Dry Lakes Hill,” Daniel Dierker said.    

“This community only has one road in and so it’s very vulnerable to getting a trap that way,” Dierker said.

Decreasing the chances of running from flames gave the Dierkers some security.

For at least the next four years Galloway and other recreationalists will have to sacrifice a lot of their trails on Dry Lake Hills and Mormon Mountain.

“But I’m glad to see the forest get thinned,” Alida Dierker said.

“If it’s going to help preserve Flagstaff even more, you know. I’m OK with it,” Flagstaff resident and recreationalist Tom McCall said.

The Forest Service said other areas this project may also help protect the hospital and railroad tracks from flooding thanks to its fuels mitigation treatment.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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