The Dolores Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest and the Chinle Chapter House of the Navajo Nation have partnered with National Forest Foundation and Weston Backcountry to launch the San Juan NF’s Wood for Life program. Wood for Life (WFL) provides local tribes with a sustainable source of firewood from forest thinning projects. In February, approximately 6 log truckloads of wood—at least 84 cords of firewood—will be delivered to the Chinle Chapter House as weather allows. This wood will be processed into firewood and delivered to the elderly and other vulnerable populations in the area.

The source of the wood is the Dolores Ranger District from the Lake Canyon and Lone Pine Vegetation Management Projects. These management efforts are designed to increase resiliency to detrimental disturbances associated with bark beetles and wildfire. The small-diameter and low-value wood being removed moves the forest closer to long-term desired conditions, and markets for such wood are scarce. The long-term goal for San Juan Wood for Life is building a partnership that can help sustainably meet Tribal fuelwood needs while advancing forest restoration efforts.

The Chinle Chapter has participated in the WFL program with the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests in the past and was chosen for the San Juan WFL pilot program due to the existing distribution networks and infrastructure. The Chinle Youth Program works in partnership with the Americorps program for on-the-ground support splitting, loading, and delivering the wood to residents

The Wood for Life program was developed in 2018 as a collaboration between the Kaibab and Coconino National Forests, the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe, and the National Forest Foundation. The partnership now includes over 60 organizations. Since its inception, over 7,000 cords of wood have been provided to local tribal governments and nonprofits, who process and distribute it to community members throughout the southwest. “The expansion of Wood for Life to the San Juan NF will allow the program to benefit more Forest lands and reach more communities,” said NFF program manager Sasha Stortz. “We’re thrilled for this significant moment of growth and really appreciate all the partners who have come together to make it happen.”

National Forest Foundation