A Tonto National Forest project will use machinery to “chew” or “grind” woody vegetation on 5,351 acres across two of the Tonto’s ranger districts beginning Jan. 17.
Entitled the Payson/Pleasant Valley Maintenance Mastication project, the contracted work will take place over the next year near the towns of Mesa Del Caballo, Kohl’s Ranch, Christopher Creek, and Young in central Arizona.
The project will reduce shrub and small juniper regrowth in previously treated areas, improving watersheds in Christopher, Tonto and Cherry Creeks, with the goal of lowering the risk of large-scale wildland fires. Additionally, burned watersheds are prone to increased flooding and erosion, which can negatively affect water-supply reservoirs, water quality, and drinking-water treatment processes.
Mastication is a fuel reduction treatment method used in forestry management to lower the risk of wildfires by reducing fuel loadings, returning the forest to natural conditions, and improving overall forest health. Masticating fuels, or mulching the forest, involves the reduction of vegetation into small chunks and is one of the many ways overstocked forest stands are thinned.
A masticator is similar to a woodchipper, it is mounted on an excavator type tractor, which moves through the forest to grind or chip trees and brush, leaving the chips behind. The benefits of this treatment include opening the canopy and forest floor which provides the remaining trees access to more nutrients, sunlight and water. Mastication can assist in removing some trees in the early stages, to allow the remaining trees to grow faster, larger and healthier.
The mastication project is linked to the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. Commonly referred to as 4FRI, this landscape-level effort is restoring the structure, pattern, composition, and health of fire-adapted ponderosa pine ecosystems across 2.4 million acres in northern Arizona. The project uses a full suite of restoration approaches that are carried out by Forest Service personnel, partners, volunteers, and contractors. Additionally, the Forest Service consults with 17 Native American Tribes, as well as 10 Navajo Nation chapters on 4FRI.
Fuels reduction projects are part of the USDA Forest Service’s overarching wildfire crisis strategy to reduce wildfire risk to people, communities, and natural resources while sustaining and restoring healthy, resilient fire-adapted forests. For more information about the Forest Service’s 10-year strategy to address the wildfire crisis, visit the Confronting the Wildfire Crisis web page.
For additional information about the above projects, contact the Payson Ranger Station located at 1009 E. Highway 260, Payson, Arizona. Or phone the station at (928) 474-7900 Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 - 4:30 p.m.
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