Cooperatove Conservation Project

White Mountain Stewardship Project

Community Collaboration Leads to Forest Restoration

Location: South-Central/South-West Region: Arizona

Project Summary: A 10-year stewardship contract was awarded to thin 150,000 acres of forest to protect communities from wildfire and stimulate wood industry.
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Community participants, fire departments, and agencies meet to prepare Community Wildfire Protection Plans.
Resource Challenge

In 2002, the Rodeo-Chediski Fire burned 468,000 acres in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona. The loss of 400 homes was a wake-up call for local communities situated among the pine forests that extend from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and White Mountain Apache Tribal lands to the communities. Four county governments pooled their money to complete community fire plans that seamlessly span the wildland urban interface (WUI) across the White Mountains. A citizen-based Natural Resources Working Group has been providing collaborative input to forest management for eight years.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe had already accelerated their thinning and burning programs around the communities. Based on the WUI boundaries and priorities set forth in the plan, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest determined that there were 150,000 acres of ponderosa pine forests in the WUI that were seriously overstocked and vulnerable to catastrophic fire and insect attacks.

The forest offered a ten year stewardship contract to thin at least 150,000 acres. Contract goals were to treat all the pine within the WUI, support local economies, reduce the per-acre treatment cost, and encourage new wood fiber industries by providing a commitment of wood for ten years. Because this was the first long-term stewardship contract offered in the country, many issues had to be addressed and resolved prior to its formal offering.

The Forest is using the Healthy Forest Restoration Act’s environmental assessment tools to streamline environmental analysis. Environmental organizations are supporting the contract and a multiparty monitoring board has been established for the project.

Examples of Key Partners

Local homeowners, County Partnership for Restoration, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Arizona State Forester, Arizona Department of Fish and Game, Four Corners Sustainable Forestry Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, USDA Forest Service, Natural Resource Working Group, and others.

Results and Accomplishments
  • Completed a seamless four-county Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
  • Accelerated thinning and burning near communities.
  • Executed the first ten year stewardship contract; at least 150,000 federal acres will be thinned at a 30-50 percent lower cost than before the contract.
  • Created a multi-party monitoring board using a pre-existing citizen-based Natural Resources Working Group to provide forest management input.
  • Encouraging new wood fiber businesses that can stimulate the local economy, take advantage of, and better utilize, the potential long-term supply of forest resources.

The first long-term (ten years) stewardship contract offered on federal lands to thin overgrown forests adjacent to communities vulnerable to wildfire.

Project Contact
Steve Campbell
Navajo County Director
University of Arizona, Cooperative Extension

Elaine J. Zieroth
Forest Supervisor
USDA Forest Service
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest


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