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Aerial view of the Parks West restoration site overseen by TNC. Taken March 16, 2020.

Future Forests

Accelerating the pace and scale of forest restoration for a healthy Arizona

Forest Restoration: Meeting the Challenge

A century of fire suppression and two decades of drought has left our forests in urgent need of restoration. We must increase the pace and scale of forest thinning before we lose our forests permanently to large, catastrophic wildfires and a changing climate..

Transforming Forest Management

The Nature Conservancy is working with the Forest Service, wood industries, and stakeholders to accelerate forest restoration by reducing costs and improving how we work. Past timber sales valued one commodity for the public: large-tree sawtimber. Now, a restored forest, not timber, is the value. But management practices have not kept up. Substantial time and funds are spent to administer timber sales on tasks that do not meet current needs. We need new processes that value the end product of a restored forest rather than what is removed. The challenge is how to change agency practices without delaying ongoing forest treatments.

Investing in Arizona’s Future

The Nature Conservancy is investing our resources in helping the Forest Service develop new practices. We are testing ways to cut costs in forest treatments for harvesters. And, we are using information we receive to build trust among all, ensuring forests are ecologically restored.

Benefits of restoration

In addition to lowering the risk of severe wildfires, mechanical thinning and prescribed fire provide benefits to climate, water, and forest resilience. Research published by TNC scientists shows restoration projects, such as the Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) could stabilize carbon on the landscape by decreasing the wildfire risk and increasing growth of the remaining trees. A thinned forest allows more snow melt and rainfall to reach the forest floor, sink into the ground and feed streams. Fewer trees reduces competition for resources and allows trees to grow faster and be more resistant to drought and pests. Please see our published literature in the "Related Research" section on the right.

For more information see our Forest Resilience Fact Sheet

Related Research
Oct 2020
Climate Change, Forest Restoration Benefits
John. B. Bradford, Caitlin A. Andrews, Marcos D. Robles, Lisa A. McCauley, Travis J. Woolley, Robert M. Marshall
Landscape restoration minimizes tree growth vulnerability to 21st century drought in a dry forest
With hotter temperatures and less precipitation projected in the future, reducing tree density is a possible strategy to minimize the impacts of drought on forest growth. Many forest restoration programs are focused reducing tree density to minimize wildfire risks, but it is unknown how these effort[...]
Sep 2019
Climate Change, Fire, Forest Restoration Benefits
Lisa A McCauley, Marcos D Robles, Travis Woolley, Robert M Marshall, Alec Kretchun, and David F Gori
Large-Scale Forest Restoration Stabilizes Carbon Under Climate Change in the Southwest U.S.
A century of fire suppression along with a warmer climate have increased the size, frequency and severity of wildfires, which has increased risk to communities, water supplies, wildlife, forest cover and carbon stocks. The Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), a collaboration between the U.S. F[...]
Nov 2017
Colorado River Basin
Marcos D. Robles, Dale S. Turner, and Jeanmarie A. Haney
Forest Management and Warming Effects on a Century of Salt River Streamflow
Recent studies suggest that climate change has altered the flow and provision of water from western US rivers to downstream cities and natural communities, but fewer studies have examined hydrological influences related to a century of fire suppression. This study evaluated the effects of changing f[...]
Oct 2014
Climate Change, Forest Restoration Benefits
Forest, Riparian-aquatic
Verde River
Robles, M., Marshall, R., O'Donnell, F., Smith, E., Haney, J., and Gori, D.
Accelerated Forest Thinning Improves Runoff in Salt-Verde watersheds
This article examines the influence of climate variability and accelerated forest thinning on runoff in ponderosa pine forests in the Salt and Verde River watersheds in central Arizona. The effects of thinning treatments were examined over 15-, 25-, and 35-year periods. Over the course of treatments[...]
Aug 2010
Sue Sitko and Sarah Hurteau
The First Five Years of the White Mountain Stewardship Project
The White Mountains Stewardship Project on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona was designed to reduce the impacts of wildfires on communities, improve wildlife habitat, and help stimulate employment in the wood products industry. A multi-party monitoring board was convened to design a p[...]