O’Halleran Blasts Forest Service for Failure to Agree Upon New Contract
VILLAGE OF OAK CREEK—Today, following news that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) had decided to cancel the 4FRI Phase Two Integrated Resource Stewardship Contract within the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) released the following statement:
“As a key player in Arizona’s forest and water management for over 20 years, I have seen firsthand the struggle the 4FRI initiative has faced to properly restore our forests. In the 2018 Omnibus Bill, I helped implement a 20-year contract process to more effectively allow contractors to borrow money and create more accountability at the Forest Service. This extended contract length is something I have worked to implement since my time on the Governor’s Forest Health Oversight Council.
“Today’s Phase Two contract failure jeopardizes the health of our forests and the safety of many Arizona families, businesses, and communities.
“While I understand there are economic challenges here, this process has gone on since 2019 and the Forest Service has had more than enough time to work through those challenges, even issuing 11 amendments.
“The Forest Service’s failure to continue the contracting process slows restoration work in the 605,000 -818,000 acres that would be addressed under the contract, jeopardizes forested communities, and wrongly passes up an opportunity to create new, rural jobs. Restoration work at scale is critical for Arizona.
“Throughout my time in Congress, I have fought to increase funding and resources for forest management and firefighting. It is disappointing that the Forest Service isn’t doing more to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires with the authorities and resources Congress has provided to improve forest management, help prevent forest fires, and minimize severity of wildfires.”
The 4FRI initiative encompasses the Kaibab, Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Tonto national forests, engaging them in a collaborative, landscape-scale initiative designed to restore fire-adapted ecosystems in the Southwestern Region. Through ongoing collaboration with stakeholders, the four forests worked to plan and carry out landscape-scale restoration of the ponderosa pine forests in northern Arizona.
O’Halleran, an early champion of 4FRI, has urged action from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and USFS on the importance of 4FRI and addressing wildfires head-on since coming to Congress in 2017. Meaningful restoration of northern Arizona forests will bring new rural jobs and economic growth to the area, improve water conditions, and reduce public safety concerns.