SRP’s Healthy Forest Initiative rethinks how we restore the health of Arizona’s forests. Our program aims to prevent large, hot wildfires rather than clean up after them. Sadly, since the year 2000, 3.2 million acres have burned in and around the 13,000 square miles of northern Arizona that make up the Salt and Verde river watersheds.
Since 2002, 7 megafires have burned through the watersheds.
If we don’t do something about it now, that number will grow. Currently, it’s estimated that about 74% of Arizona’s forests are overgrown and unhealthy according to the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). Due to fire-igniting brush and the overcrowding of small trees, millions of Arizona forest acres are at risk of burning.
Not only is it devastating to see the beautiful forests in flames, but wildfires also pose a threat to the Valley’s water supply.
Healthy forests mean a healthy water supply
For over a century, SRP has proudly delivered over half of the Valley’s water supply. With that duty comes a great responsibility to ensure the sustainability of the water supply and forests.
Unfortunately, out-of-control wildfires do more than scorch the earth and trees. In addition to burning hundreds, sometimes thousands, of trees per acre, catastrophic wildfires release large amounts of carbon and pollutants into the air. To sum it up, here’s how these wildfires pose a threat to our water:
- The wildfire ruins the forest floor and soil nutrients.
- Snowmelt and rain can’t be absorbed into the ground.
- Water runoff picks up dirt, sediment and debris, which then end up in our water supply. This can cause water quality and supply issues for communities across the state.
A healthy forest allows more snow and rain to soak into the soil. As a result, sustainable, reliable water makes its way into the rivers, lakes, canals and eventually, your home.
SRP is committed to data-and science-based strategic forest thinning efforts. That’s why we invest in research projects and have a goal to partner to help thin 500,000 acres by 2035.
Strategically thinning our forests through the Healthy Forest Initiative
SRP’s Healthy Forest Initiative™, and our partners are helping strategically thin Arizona’s forests before large wildfires happen.
Strategic thinning removes small trees and brush. Removing unhealthy trees reduces wildfires and allows healthier and more resilient trees to grow. Especially with climate change, which the NOAA predicts will lead to bigger and more frequent fires , this effort is even more urgent.
In addition to preventing and slowing catastrophic wildfires, this strategic thinning effort:
- Leaves large, mature trees that are more resilient to drought, disease and insects
- Helps store more carbon in healthy trees and in wood products made from small trees
- Creates a healthier ecosystem more resilient to the effects of climate change
- Protects and enhances wildlife habitats
- Brings jobs to the area
Check out a recent strategic thinning project, Hardscrabble.