Flagstaff – SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, MIKE JOHANNS WALKED THROUGH THE FOREST WITH BLACK COWBOY BOOTS.
HE WORE A DENIM SHIRT EMBROIDERED WITH THE ICON OF FOREST FIRE PREVENTION: SMOKEY BEAR.
SOT: It is just so beautiful.
SENATOR JOHN KYL INVITED THE CABINET MEMBER TO SEE WHAT ARIZONA IS DOING TO AVOID CATASTROPHIC WILDFIRES.
THEY TOURED THE GUS PEARSON NATURAL AREA.
IT'S A PART OF THE COCONINO NATIONAL FOREST NORTHWEST OF FLAGSTAFF, WHERE SCIENTISTS EXPERIMENTING WITH FOREST THINNING TECHNIQUES.
THAT MEANS THEY CUT DOWN CERTAIN TREES TO GIVE ROOM OTHER TREES ROOM TO GROW.
You can see right back in here see the growth of that old growth tree right back in there? That old tree will be gone for another ten-15 years and then it will be gone.
WALLY COVINGTON LED THE TOUR.
HE'S THE DIRECTOR OF THE ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION INSTITUTE AT NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY.
COVINGTON POINTS OUT A PONDEROSA PINE TO SECRETARY JOHANNS.
WC: You can see the resin out the holes that we've knocked out. SJ: All of a sudden the tree is restoring itself. It's becoming a healthy tree.
COVINGTON SAYS THE RESIN FLOW SHOWS THE TREE IS STRONG ENOUGH TO FIGHT OFF PREDATORY INSECTS, LIKE BARK BEETLES.
HE SAYS THE TREE WAS DYING BEFORE YOUNGER TREES AROUND IT WERE CUT DOWN.
THIS PINE TREE DEMONSTRATES HOW THINNING WILL MAKE SURE OLD GROWTH TREES WON'T DISAPPEAR.
We don't know how long it will take for them to die out, but it's not the right thing to do. These are critical for wildlife habitat, they're critical for human habitat. They just carry a tremendous amount of genetic history. The older I get the more I appreciate how important old things are .(obligatory guffaws)
BUT BEYOND KEEPING OLD GROWTH TREES ALIVE.
THE ERI AND THE FOREST SERVICE SAY THINNING CAN HELP KEEP WILDFIRES UNDER CONTROL.
NORA RASURE (RA-SHURE) IS THE SUPERVISOR FOR THE COCONINO NATIONAL FOREST.
SOT: What I wanted to talk about is the fuel treatment we're actually doing on the ground.
RASURE POINTS TO MAPS TO SHOW HOW THE FOREST SERVICE WAS WORKING TO GET RID OF FIRE FUEL AROUND FLAGSTAFF.
NR SOT: I think people recognize the dilemma we're facing here on these forests where we need to reduce the fuels and restore the forest health. And I think we need to continue to have their support as we move forward.
THE FOREST SERVICE MAY HAVE SOME POLITICIANS' SUPPORT.
BUT ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS HAVE SUED TO STOP THINNING AND TIMBER SALES.
THEY ARGUE THESE PROJECTS OFTEN CUT DOWN LARGE DIAMETER TREES.
SENATOR KYL SAYS HE WANTS TO BUILD ALLIANCES TO KEEP THESE TREATMENTS OUT OF THE COURTROOM.
There is still too much litigation that stops these projects and the threat of litigation. Two years ago over half of the Forest Service Budget was spent on litigation and getting ready for litigation. That's a huge waste of money.
IT DIDN'T TAKE MUCH FOR SECRETARY JOHANNS TO BE CONVINCED THE FOREST SERVICE IS ON THE RIGHT TRACK.
We are standing in an area that I believe establishes really beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you manage forests over time you're going to see great benefit. You're going to see a healthier forest and you'll also see a forest that you're proud to leave to the next generation.