Over 30 organizations come together to create positive change for Arizona public lands

In the last two years, the Northern Arizona Forest Fund (NAFF), a program led by the National Forest Foundation’s Southwest Field Program, has invested over $11.8 million to improve water quality, forest health and community resilience across the Salt and Verde Watersheds.

Partnering with over thirty organizations, NAFF provides an easy way for businesses, municipalities and individual residents of Arizona to invest in the lands and watersheds they depend on. These investments focus on ‘green infrastructure’ within National Forest lands, protecting the health of Arizona communities, including the Phoenix Metro area, by improving forest and watershed conditions and securing clean and sustainable water supplies, ultimately protecting Arizona’s tourism and outdoor economies.

Volunteers plant seed balls along the Salt River.

The fund targets three key goals:

  • forest thinning - to reduce fire and flood risk,
  • water quality and sustainability - reducing stream sediment into rivers, reservoirs and canals, and
  • improving wetland and stream function - restoring springs, wet meadows, and riparian landscapes.

In the last two years, NAFF has restored more than 4,000 acres of forest and significantly reduced the risk of fire by as much as 60% in treatment areas. It has replenished 80 million gallons of water into the Lower Salt River, and reduced sediment transportation by a combined 55 tons for the Salt and Verde watersheds. A total of 3,500 pounds of trash has been removed from the Oak Creek watershed. 100,000 trees planted, 23 miles of trail improved, and 400 acres of wetland habitats are now protected.

None of this would be possible without community investment. “This is all thanks to our amazing partners. It has been incredible to see the commitment and dedication of such diverse organizations to restoring and protecting our natural habitats,” says Rebecca Davidson, the Southwest Region Program Director at the National Forest Foundation. “Their willingness to get involved and give back to their community have made a remarkable impact across the region.”

Coming together to create change across a state as large as Arizona, isn’t easy. Yet the City of Phoenix, the City of Scottsdale, and Coconino County, among others, recognize the value of investing in restoration projects on National Forests in order to provide clean water and community protection to local and downstream residents and businesses. Through investment in the NAFF, these municipalities and county organizations are driving an innovative model for watershed investment across the West, harnessing a shared interest in ensuring long term sustainability of Arizona’s natural resources for the public good.

State partners including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, and Arizona Water Protection Fund have also funded key projects under NAFF which help grow the value of the work and the breadth of benefits; from wildlife habitat, water for all, and community and infrastructure protection.

Bridging recreation and tourism with public land conservation, partners like Pink Jeep Tours and Four Peaks Brewing Company have not only invested in the fund but have also helped engage their customers to care about the lands on which they adventure. “We understand the importance of protecting these places where we live, recreate, and operate our business. Without healthy forests and clean drinking water, none of us will succeed.” says Pink Jeep Tours president, John J Fitzgibbons.

Heading into 2022 NFF will continue to grow NAFF investments, focusing on watershed management priorities across five National Forests; restoring forests, protecting water supplies, and improving the resilience of America’s public lands. “Connecting forests, water and communities has never been more important, and there is more work to be done,” Davidson says. “With additional partnerships and support, I’m confident these projects will continue to protect community ‘green infrastructure’ and make lasting change in the lives of Arizona citizens and beyond.”

For more information about the Northern Arizona Forest Fund, current partners and how to get involved, click here.

National Forest Foundation