Senator Sylvia Allen recently hosted a dozen fellow legislators, county supervisors and local leaders for the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization 2015 Field Trip. The trip enabled officials from across the state to see firsthand the state of our forests and the industries that rely on them.
The Eastern Arizona Counties Organization (ECO) is collaboration between Apache, Gila, Graham, Greenlee and Navajo Counties. ECO takes a leading role in natural resources and public lands management issues in Eastern Arizona.
The three day event in mid-May included a flyover of the C.C. Cragin Watershed near Payson, a field visit to a forest restoration project by Canyon Creek Logging and a tour of the Novo Power Biomass Power Plant near Snowflake. The elected officials also visited the Forest Energy wood pellet plant in Show Low, the Reidhead Brothers Lumber Mill in Nutrioso and Arizona Log and Timberworks in Eagar.
“All of these industries and projects are critical to the health of the forest and to improving our watersheds and wildlife. The bonus is the hundreds of jobs created and the revenue to local governments,” said Senator Allen.
Just 25 years ago, Arizona had a thriving timber industry, contributing $500 million and 11,000 direct jobs per year to the state’s economy. Fifteen sawmills provided jobs and supported rural economies. Then, excessive regulations and lawsuits brought all of that to a standstill.
“What I saw last week was the re-birth of this industry,” said Senator Allen. “I also learned about the challenges of keeping the wood supply coming and the federal dollars needed for the studies that have to take place first before the work can be done. Some of my neighbors and friends are putting all they have on the line to bridge the gap between timber sales and thinning projects.”
Among the issues discussed at the field trip was the need to make more acreage available for restoration projects, an increase in the maximum truck weight limit in Arizona and the importance of defensible space, as we approach fire season.