Contractors Ramp Up For Arizona Thinning Project

August 04, 2014

Contractors have their work cut out for them as they ramp up a major forest-thinning project to reduce the risk of wildfire in northern Arizona.

Arizona's logging industry is a shadow of its former self, and area head Steve Horner of Portland, Oregon-based The Campbell Group said it needs loggers, trucks and mills for the project, which is also intended to create sustainable forest industries.

"What we're facing here in the region is the loss of those resources," Horner said. "Even if we were to put all those resources on our contract, it would only cover about 30 percent of the work that needs to get done."

Campbell was brought into the Four Forest Restoration Initiative by Good Earth Power AZ LLC after the U.S. Forest Service transferred the project contract to Good Earth last year.

The project's initial phase will thin 300,000 acres, or about 469 square miles, and Horner estimated his company will need to use 300 logging trucks a day.

Community college education and training might be used to help build the skilled workforce required, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

The entire project area along the Mogollon Rim is 2.4 million acres, or 3,750 square miles — an area slightly larger than Yellowstone National Park.

The Forest Service hopes to thin about 1 million of those acres within the next 20 years.

Campbell intends to leverage the project's proximity to large markets such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix, Horner said. "It's a well-situated wood supply to be close to a lot of metropolises, so this is keeping us optimistic," he said.

Another factor working in their favor is that pine has kept its value, while other woods have declined in price, he said.

As they ramp up, the contractors have purchased the Lumberjack Sawmill in Heber, with plans to build a much larger processing facility somewhere in the region.

A biomass plant in Snowflake will get the brush and very young trees to burn and turn into electricity.

Good Earth Power, whose parent company is based in Oman, got the project contract after the previous contractor had problems with financing.