FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The head of the U.S. Forest Service says the agency is allocating $54 million for forest restoration work in northern Arizona in the wake of its recent cancellation of a contract for a larger multiyear project in the region.
Forest Service Chief Randy Moore announced the funding decision Tuesday in Flagstaff during a meeting with two members of the state's congressional delegation and numerous other officials, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.
The $54 million allocation for the recently started federal fiscal year will pay for work to protect communities and watersheds from wildfires, Moore said.
The work will include rehabilitation of forest roads and thinning and prescribed burns of 211 square miles (54,632 hectares) of high priority areas in the forests, officials said.
Citing challenges that made the project unfeasible, the Forest Service in September canceled its planned next contract for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. The project is intended to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires to the Coconino, Kaibab, Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves forest.
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said she was grateful that the Forest Service announced the new funding plan in a timely fashion after the contract cancellation and that her office plans to monitor the agency's progress.