Four Forest Restoration Initiative

Posted: Mar 1, 2011
Written by: 
Britta Beckstead


Updated February 2011

Location: Kaibab, Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests (along the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona)

Collaborative partners: Arizona Forest Restoration Products, Arizona Game and Fish Department, 4FRI Stakeholders Group, Center for Biological Diversity and Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University, Grand Canyon Trust, Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Northern Arizona University

Objective: Collaborative, landscape-scale initiative to restore fire-adapted ecosystems


  • Establishing trust – In the words of Henry Provencio, “the way you get trust is by doing what you say you’re going to’s something you earn, not something you can expect.”
  • Industry engagement at the appropriate scale (contracting options and timing)
  • Role of landscape strategy (priority areas, monitoring framework, and habitat considerations)
  • Internal communications – allocations of roles and responsibilities
  • Successful collaborative planning within the current legal framework and timelines
  • Monitoring and adaptive management
  • Finding consistent funding

Project summary:

Arizona forests are very susceptible to destructive, large-scale forest fires. Historically these areas were more diverse and resilient due to recurring, low-intensity fires. For many years, national forest managers have used prescribed fire and thinning to reduce the effect of wildfire on communities. However, in 2002, the Rodeo-Chediski Fire caused thousands of people to evacuate and 400 homes were destroyed. As a result, the Governor created the Forest Health Advisory Council, which resulted in many efforts to restore health to Arizona’s forests, including the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. The goals of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) are to restore the function and resilience of our ponderosa pine system and to attract appropriately sized industry to aid in those restoration efforts. The plan is targeting 2.4 million acres in total, and their goal is to mechanically treat an additional 30,000 acres a year over a 20-year period. 

The effort is fortunate to have an active public stakeholders group comprised of individuals, agencies, and organizations.  The 4FRI stakeholders group released their landscape restoration strategy report in October 2010. The report suggests a strategy for addressing restoration across the four Forests. In an article for The Arizona Republic, Ethan Aumack, the director of restoration projects for the Grand Canyon Trust, stated that the Four Forest Restoration Initiative “turns everything on its head…we have aligned ecological need with economic need and community benefit, and now we have the opportunity to do what’s right.” 

The Forest Service planning team is holding collaborative workshops where the public can express thoughts and ideas  on the proposed action, monitoring plan, and adaptive management. The team leader, Henry Provencio, says this project is different, “we are all working together throughout the project  instead of just at the end of a project.” The public can also make comments online at the USDA Forest Service’s webpage on the Kaibab National Forest. 

Kalbab National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona

Kaibab National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona

Lessons Learned

  • Work on a wide scale because: a) Forest health is easier to attain when the largest possible areas are thinned and treated, and b) There is more product to offset costs
  • Work with private industry to offset costs – this project would cost approximately $1 billion without industry making valuable products out of the wood from the thinning 
  • This method has created jobs and contributed to the local economy
  • These types of projects do not overnight. This project is the product of many meetings over a decade


One of the most significant accomplishments of the group has been their creative approach to modeling the forest landscape and collecting the data necessary to develop an action plan. The computer modeling system finds similar landscapes and assigns values to them by comparing them to existing data. They have also been partnering with Northern Arizona University on interpreting satellite imagery. This way they can present the most accurate data to the public and stakeholders.

Additional Resources:

The Four Forest Restoration Initiative Website

U.S. Forest Service Stewardship Contracting Brochure:

Contact information:

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