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A new five-year, $2.5 million agreement between the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and Salt River Project (SRP) aims to significantly ramp up forest restoration efforts in northern Arizona.

The goal is to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and protect critical watersheds that supply water to communities across the state.

The agreement comes as Arizona continues to battle devastating wildfires that have burned nearly 2 million acres since 2020, according to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

Under the agreement, SRP will donate $500,000 annually over the next five years to support NFF’s forest restoration projects. An additional $25,000 per year will go towards NFF’s Wood for Life program, which provides firewood to Navajo and Hopi tribes.

“We are thrilled for the significant investment in forest and watershed health by SRP as part of NFF’s Northern Arizona Forest Fund, focusing on priority restoration needs across the Salt and Verde watersheds,” said NFF Senior Director of Conservation Programs Rebecca Davidson.

The funds will support two key restoration projects in the Tonto National Forest – the Pine Creek Canyon Project and Deadman Mesa Mastication Project. Together, these projects will thin more than 3,000 acres of dense, invasive and fire-prone tree stands. Thinning helps improve overall forest health and enables controlled burn operations.

The Pine Creek Canyon Project focuses on an area with extremely rugged terrain that requires helicopter logging. The projects aim to protect critical watershed basins that supply the communities of Pine, Strawberry and Randall Place through the Salt and Verde rivers.

“This long-term partnership commitment will help us accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration in northern Arizona and help SRP achieve its forest health goal to help thin 500,000 acres by 2035,” said SRP Manager of Water and Forest Sustainability Elvy Barton.

NFF’s Northern Arizona Forest Fund identifies priority restoration needs and leverages public-private partnerships to implement projects across federal, state, tribal and private lands. This agreement with SRP represents a significant investment in restoring long-term health and resiliency for both forests and watersheds in northern Arizona.

Cover photo courtesy of: Amanda Oliver, Tonto National Forest

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