A week ago the U.S. Forest Service (Southwestern Region 3) awarded the largest timber sale in the history of the agency – a 300,000-plus-acre harvest over 900,000 acres. Since wildfires have plagued forests in Arizona off and on for decades, the 4FRI (Four Forest Restoration Initiative) was supported by conservation groups and county governments with an industry partner based in Arizona.
The 4FRI collaborative was spearheaded by the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona. Their industry partner signed a memorandum of understanding – only small-diameter trees would be harvested and a strong conservation protocol was included. They bid about $16 million on the USFS contract.
But USFS awarded the contract to Pioneer Forest Products instead. PFP’s buzz is new mills and jobs. They’ll have the right to log old growth along with thinning the smaller trees. They’re paying about $6 million for the contract.
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Turns out PFP isn’t even a registered business in Arizona. Neither are they registered in New Mexico, headquarters for Region 3. Supposedly they’re a subsidiary of Pioneer Associates of Billings, Montana – a nebulous company. There’s more to this story, none of it good.
Add the Region 3 USFS silviculturist who represented the “associates” while still employed at the agency, subsequently working as their liaison for this contract.
I recall retired Idaho’s Nez Perce Forest Supervisor Tom Kovalicky asking of the Lochsa Land Exchange debacle, “Who is in charge here?” The situation in Arizona helps answer the question.
Region 3 will issue two environmental documents for this project at a loss of $10 million via their selection of Pioneer Associates, as well as the loss of old growth from four forests in Arizona.
Hard to miss the smell of the garbage called corruption.
Who will engage the investigation and gutsy journalism needed to take out the trash?