Arizona is blessed with 19 million acres of forested land; of which 15 million acres are juniper and pinon-juniper variants covering 20% of our State. However, we annually have significant wildfires that burn swaths of our forest.

The Arizona State Forestry Division deploys federal and state funds to address three priorities:

1. Conserve working forest lands

2. Protecting forests from harm

3. Enhance public benefits from trees and forests

Vast areas of our 19 million acres of Arizona’s forest lands are unhealthy and vulnerable to unnatural fire because of accumulated fuels and drought. We have pressure on the sustainability of our forests and increased risk of another devastating fire as in 2002 when the Rodeo fire destroyed 470,000 acres and 400 homes.

The Arizona State Forestry Division has done a good job of managing forest fires with half as much damage as California (1.5 acres / square mile in Arizona vs. 3.1 acres / square mile in California) over the past 34 years.

Forest Management fire map of US Jim Lamon for US Senate

I believe our forests should be better utilized by reframing the strategy from a defensive, policy-driven perspective to a pro-active, common good strategy. Below are some aspects I believe will help with our forest management, and I will work toward these goals in the US Senate:

  • Local Forest Management vs Federal Forest Management:  I will work to significantly reduce the size and scope of the US Forest Service. It has become too involved in local forest management and is not accountable to the people. The annual federal cost of $7.6B can be more effectively managed at state level.

  • Better utilization of biomass as a source of renewable energy: Forest floors can be better maintained by adding commercial incentive to build more biomass energy plants. For Arizona, we need at least four biomass facilities to manage our forest deadwood, prevent over-population and to remove invasive species of junipers.

Currently we only have only one of these 4 biomass plants (near Overgaard). While these facilities cost more to build and operate as a power source than utility scale solar or clean natural gas fired plants, there is an inherent value in maintaining cleaner forests for less non-natural forest fires and for watershed protection.  The cost of these facilities to the average Arizona utility bill is $0.001/ kilowatt hour, or about $5 more per household per month.

  • Funding the biomass initiative through a more efficient energy market: I believe the utilities in Arizona are currently enjoying rates that are significantly higher than they would be if these utilities were not protected with their current monopolistic guaranteed financial returns. To this end, Arizona should adopt an improved version of the Texas competitive utility market where electricity rates are substantially lower compared to Arizona. By reducing their overhead cost by at least and equivalent amount, utilities can offset the additional $5 per month recovered from all utility bills. No cost to Arizona households in the longer term.

  • Increase Managed Harvest:  We need more lumber for our homebuilding and Jim proposes that come, in part from increased harvests of our national forests. We can do this responsibly to preserve our forests for the long term, make them less susceptible to fire, increase local jobs and drive down the cost of lumber for our new homes. A small fee could be added to our lumber harvest to go directly to Arizona forest management to increase the area currently in forest.