Today Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema criticized the Forest Service for the sudden cancellation of the contract solicitation for Phase 2 of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI. This decision by the Forest Service will further delay the much-needed large-scale thinning of forests in northern and eastern Arizona, and is the latest setback in a program that hasn’t met its goals to restore fire-adapted forest ecosystems to mitigate forest fires.
“The Forest Service blindsided Arizonans with their decision to cancel the long-awaited 4FRI contract. This is unacceptable and is only going to further erode Arizonans’ trust in the Forest Service,” said Senator Kelly. “Our communities have endured fires, floods, and loss of property and life while the Forest Service fails in its responsibility to restore our forests to their natural, fire-adapted state. 4FRI is a priority for me because it’s a priority for our state, and I’m going to keep pushing the administration until we get the forest management and fire prevention we need.”
“Today’s abrupt decision undermines years of work to protect Arizona communities from wildfires and flooding,” said Senator Sinema, who recently led negotiations on the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which would make historic investments in preventing wildfires and floods and boosting recovery from such disasters. “This reversal comes at a particularly dangerous time for communities across Arizona, as wildfire season gets longer each year. The Forest Service must take immediate action and provide Arizonans certainty that there will be no further delays and that the agency will fulfill its obligations to our state.”
Earlier this year, Kelly visited a forest restoration site near Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest that was treated by The Nature Conservancy as part of 4FRI.
At a June hearing in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen told Kelly that the Forest Service plans to make an announcement that month on the 4FRI Phase 2 contract award but that offers could extend into July. Kelly had previously written Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging him to work through the Forest Service to ensure that Phase 2 of 4FRI moved forward without delay.
Since joining the Senate, Sinema has been a strong advocate for 4FRI, and in 2019 introduced the Accelerating Forest Restoration Act to expedite the Phase 2 contract award.