Introduction to the Flagstaff Plan
While in Flagstaff, the President stumped a bit for the
Republican candidate for the important new seat in congress which has recently been allocated to the
Flagstaff district. Flagstaff is a very appealing place to live, and the district has finally grown enough to get
it's own seat. Naturally, that same growth has steadily increased the size of the Wildland/Urban Interface of
the city, that border between itself and the immense, dry forest which surrounds it.
Beginning in 1996, and after
suffering a couple of bad fires within the interface boundary, the
Flagstaff Area Wildfire Risk Assessment
(AKA - The Flagstaff Plan) was produced. Since then, the residents of the city, including foresters and scientists
the state university located in Flagstaff - renowned for it's Forestry
department, along with the city's fire department, have teamed up with a number of diverse environmental and
governmental groups to form the
Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership.
This dynamic group has been granted authority over thousands of acres of local lands, and now has in progress a number
of scientifically-monitored tests of various
techniques. And, they've achieved
some impressive results.
In August of last year, Gale Norton, Interior Secretary,
visited the city
and took a look at those results. She apparently
liked what she saw
(NPR RealAudio), as well. While she was there, an
was held, with the Secretary and
(R.AZ), wherein she expressed her interest in the results. Sadly, as we all know, the administration's focus was
largely diverted from American forests and wildlands beginning in the following month. But the Flagstaff Plan is an
ongoing experiment, even if the administration deemed it enough of a success to model their own plan (Healthy
Forests) after it.
While the Flagstaff model won't fit everywhere, there are many aspects of the plan which make it quite
appealing as a general-purpose guide. Forest Restoration, as a practice, seeks to distinguish itself from
initiatives which emphasize
as well as
and focuses on attempting to return the forest to a state in which it might have existed long ago, when it was healthy
and strong, in some cases, all the way back to pre-European settlement conditions.
The Flagstaff plan also has a strong focus on so-called
the smaller trees, and duff which are cleared in the process of restoration. Dealing with biomass is one of the
most important considerations when deciding how to restore any bit of forest. Recently they've begun discussions
towards creation of a
biomass power plant,
which would provide a way to gain additional benefit, and reduce costs associated with restoration in the
dense, doghair thickets of trees which burn so intensely. There are other good ideas for dealing with biomass
as well, including local production of products which make use of composite lumber, such as counter-tops and other
More Recent History
Meanwhile, last May, the
10-Year Comprehensive Strategy Implementation Plan
was finally approved. This plan, also called the Governor's Plan, was hailed as a great breakthrough for the
country's forests, and widely trumpeted as the culmination of a long and grueling settlement process. The
Governors Plan can be contrasted to the Flagstaff Plan in several ways, as can the President's plan to either one of
them, but I'm not going to focus on that just yet.
A lot happened w.r.t. these plans during the September, and it's worth a look, if only to get a feel for the kind of
forces which are fighting for and against them. Earlier in September, as mentioned, the President's plan
in the Senate,
a disappointment for many, but a triumph for others. Senator Kyl, clearly among the disappointed
group, stated upon it's defeat:
"We can't stand many more summers of drought before these forests are going to be all burned out,"
So, what went wrong? During late August and early September, things were
for Healthy Forests. In fact, right up to the time the administration
sent their plan to the Hill,
many organizations were
calling for a truce,
especially after witnessing the devastation of the summer. But after it became public, and following a period of
respectful debate, the
(NYT) began to be aired, speaking out against Healthy Forests. The plan simply
according to the critics. Even the Governor of Oregon, the state which suffered the devastating Biscuit Fire
(also discussed in my
blasting the President's plan,
"It definitely sets us back."
and defending the Governors Plan, linked above, to which he was also a primary contributor.
As a result the mistrust and anger, and as some will already know, when Healthy Forests finally
got to the Senate floor this month, it did not find the
support it needed
and has been shelved, but not yet "tabled". This in spite of
from Senator Kyl, and other
which took place, right down to the last minute. The
which was eventually
on the Healthy Forests bill did not include a motion to table, so, theoretically, it's still alive. But I guess it's
likely donned its
emergency shelter by now,
with all of the raging and flaming going on around it. And that's too bad.
So what if Healthy Forests dies?
Well, life will go on, I suppose.
But I submit that, with a few more revisions, and a little less talking past each other, the
Bush plan has merit
and could be made worthy of some much closer consideration. Not because it is special in and of itself, but because
it's based on the Flagstaff Plan. In the next article, therefore, we'll take a hard look at the
Flagstaff plan, including digging into the scientific research which is its basis. In the meantime, you can compare
all three plans for yourself.
There is certainly no lack of plans, it seems. Here are a few others, along with some good references. Pay particular
attention to the Southwest Forest Alliance, they have some significant contentions and concerns with the
Flagstaff plan, which we'll address in the next article as we consider it in depth.