Category: Ecological Research
Title: White Mountain Stewardship Project Final 10-year Socioeconomic Assessment
Author: Mottek Lucas, A., Kim, Y.S.
Subject: White Mountains, Socioeconomic Assessment
Abstract: e once-thriving east-central Arizona wood products industry came to a grinding halt in the early 1990s because of ongoing legal and social conflicts over federal forest management. In 2002, the largest fire in Arizona’s history scorched a record number of acres in the area, burning many homes and infrastructure. e growing wildfire threat and a decline in forest health shifted land management policy from gridlock toward collaboration in an effort to restore the forests to more natural conditions. Under U.S. Forest Service leadership and with a newly formed partnership of the Natural Resources Working Group, one of the first projects to attempt this was the White Mountain Stewardship Project (WMSP). e White Mountain Stewardship Contract began on August 10, 2004 with a goal to treat 150,000 acres of degraded federal forests over 10 years. At the time, it was the largest and longest running stewardship contract in the country. e project focused treatments in wildland-urban interface areas throughout the White Mountain region in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. e WMSP was referred to as “the experiment” because no other national forest had attempted a large 10-year stewardship contract. For the first time in this region, it brought together environmental groups, industry leaders, scientists, and community members to restore forest health through active forest management, protect communities, and re-tool and revitalize a local wood products industry. One of the project’s biggest hurdles was to develop a new, competitive marketplace for the harvesting and processing of small-diameter trees/biomass and to provide markets for low-value restoration by-products through a single contractor model. One of the project’s greatest achievements is that implementation occurred in the absence of legal challenges—acres were treated, and the treatments were successful in protecting communities during Arizona’s largest wildfire to date, the 2011 Wallow Fire (538,049 acres). is report examines the project’s 10-year lifespan through a socioeconomic lens and presents findings on the project’s impact to forest management, the forest product industry, and social and economic conditions in the White Mountain region. Some project challenges detailed in the report include: • Stewardship contracting barriers. • The single contractor model. • A limited supply of raw material. • The economic downturn of the Great Recession. • The Wallow Fire impacts. Many project successes are also captured, such as: • Revitalized forest products industry in the White Mountains. • Generational family businesses maintained. • Benefits to forest health and ecosystem services. • Meaningful collaboration among U.S. Forest Service, stakeholders, and citizens. • Wildfire risk reduction and increased community protection. • Paved the way for the nation’s next largest collaborative restoration project, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI. U.S. Forest Service personnel, stakeholders, and business owners closely involved with the WMSP were interviewed for this report. Quotes and summarized information from interviews, combined with quantitative economic data, tell the story of how an industry, an agency, and a regional community shifted from stagnation to stewardship. e report explores the economic challenges and opportunities faced by industry, and documents lessons learned that point to improvements to the stewardship-industry model.
Source: ERI - Assessment Report
Publisher: Ecological Restoration Institute/NAU