Between May and September of 2017, American Conservation Experience (ACE) partnered with the City of Flagstaff, Arizona and Coconino National Forest to perform 110 acres of hazardous fuels treatment activities in Dry Lake Hills for the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project. ACE is a nationally-scaled, nonprofit organization dedicated to implementing critical restoration and conservation projects through training and deploying young adult crews and interns.

In the spring of 2017, ACE was fortunate to secure funding through the National Forest Foundation’s (NFF) Matching Awards Program. As a result of the financial support from NFF, ACE was able to deploy an eight-person hand thinning crew to advance critical community and forest resiliency efforts.

The ACE crew hand thinned and piled 110 acres over the course of 18 weeks. In all, the ACE crew felled 16,733 trees below 10” DBH, comprised mostly of ponderosa pine trees. The project was a great success due to the safe, strong work ethic and positive and professional demeanor of the crew members, crew leaders, and project managers. This project has been an excellent professional development opportunity for young adults with sincere aspirations for careers in forestry.

The project area is in the Dry Lake Hills region, and is at high risk of a catastrophic wildfire event without appropriate fuels reduction treatment, which would result in severe economic, social and ecological consequences for the City of Flagstaff.

Arizona Rural Policy Institute at Northern Arizona University (NAU) concluded that post-fire flood impacts caused by a high severity fire in the Dry Lake Hills could produce between $489 and $986 million in financial damages, including:

  • response and remediation,
  • property value,
  • habitat,
  • communication towers,
  • BNSF Railroad interruption,
  • large portions of NAU campus,
  • downtown Flagstaff residential neighborhoods, and
  • retail store structures located in a FEMA identified, historic floodplain.

This project significantly reduced the risk of the Flagstaff community from experiencing the damaging consequences of wildfires and post-fire flood impacts. This grant allowed for the Flagstaff community, the Rio De Flag watershed and the local forest ecosystem to become safer and more resilient to future wildfires in the Dry Lake Hills area. Check out this video for more information regarding this successful project and the stories from the corps members.

Thanks to the National Forest Foundation and the City of Flagstaff, an ACE crew will be performing an additional 75 acres of hazardous fuels treatment in the Dry Lake Hills during the fall of 2018.

National Forest Foundation