Amid Struggles, Forest Thinning Contractor Makes Leadership Change
June 6, 2017 at 5:39 am
State Route 260 cuts through Arizona's ponderosa pine forest, as photographed from the Mogollon Rim's Forest Road 300. | Jack Sheldon
The largest contractor on a federal initiative to thin millions of acres of Arizona's forests has a new leadership team and is looking to get the company back on track.
You might remember the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, commonly known as 4FRI, from the April 2016 issue of Arizona Highways. In the story Cutting It Down to Size, writer Terry Greene Sterling detailed this ambitious and controversial effort to thin and restore 2.4 million acres of ponderosa pines on four of Arizona's national forests. The story also detailed the struggles of Good Earth Power AZ, which signed on to thin 300,000 acres in 10 years but has struggled to even approach that pace.
Now, as the Arizona Daily Sun reported last month, Good Earth Power AZ is aiming to turn things around via new leadership: a group of investors who intervened in November with the goal of speeding up thinning operations.
Bill Dyer, the company's new chief operating officer, said the group plans to thin 15,000 to 18,000 acres over the next year — a dramatic increase from the 2,400 acres per year, on average, that have been thinned since 2013. Former CEO Jason Rosamond, who was featured in the Arizona Highways story, is still employed by the company but is no longer in control of operations, Dyer said.
The Sun also reported the company is planning a new mill to process small-diameter logs into boards, minimizing the portion of each tree that is turned into less profitable wood chips. It also plans to start a composting operation and is temporarily closing its existing mill in Heber to retool it and increase production capacity.
Among other changes, the company says it will change its name from Good Earth Power AZ to NewLife Forest Products — a nod to the "history" behind the Good Earth name, Dyer said.
The goal of 4FRI is to restore the forest to its "pre-settlement" condition — the way it was before non-Native American settlers altered it via overgrazing, suppression of natural fires and logging. Proponents say doing so will render the forest more resistant to epic wildfires and climate change.