The closure of the Black Mesa coal mine in 2019 has increased the demand for firewood for the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe.
More than 100 cords of wood recently were donated to tribal members as part of a cooperative effort between the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, U.S. Forest Service, private and nonprofit companies.
The wood is used for cooking and heating where border closures from the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult for tribal members to collect wood.
The wood comes from forest thinning projects of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative and National Forest Foundation’s Northern Arizona Forest Fund. Forests are thinned to help restore forests and reduce the risk of severe wildfire.
“Northern Arizona has an overabundance of low-value, small-diameter trees that tribes can use,” said a statement from the Lockett Meadow Fuelwood Project, which provided the firewood.
Lin Sue Cooney, spokeswoman of the Northern Arizona Forest Fund added that an unhealthy forest can threaten communities, the economy and the water supply.
Henry Provencio, coordinator with the U.S. Forest Service’s Four Forest Restoration Initiative in Flagstaff, called it a “win-win” situation.
Trent Teegerstrom, director of Tribal Extension for the University of Arizona, work out logistics along with Jeanne Stevens, USFS Tribal Relations Specialist, and tribal extension agents Susan Sekaquaptewa (Hopi) and Grey Farrell Jr.(Navajo). Native Waters on Arid Lands also joined the effort.
“Now we’re looking at a longer-term plan for making this program sustainable in the long run,” Teegerstrom said in a news release.
“Our goal is to scale up these approaches, providing more sustainable opportunities to meet tribal fuelwood needs, while also growing our own capacity to implement forest and watershed restoration projects on Forest Service lands,” said Rebecca Davidson, director of the Southern Rockies Field Program for National Forest Foundation.
The group is looking for funding and hopes to include wood from New Mexico in collaboration with Cooperative Extension agents Nathan Notah and Kristy Kinlicheenie of Window Rock, and Alexandra Carlisle of Shiprock.
Wood has been delivered by Joe Dirt Excavating, with funding from the National Forest Foundation and discretionary funds from University of Arizona Tribal Extension programs.
Go to www.fs.usda.gov/4FRI for more information.