New research by The Nature Conservancy and Northern Arizona shows that where forests are thinned, there is more water runoff into headwater streams and aquifers, providing benefits to water-dependent species and downstream water users.
Healthy Forests Are Essential For Abundant, Clean Water
Healthy forests allow more water to reach our underground aquifers and our streams and rivers. In Arizona and the Southwest, where extended drought and increasing demand are putting pressure on our limited water supplies, Arizona’s forests are clearly critical to our water future.
Unfortunately our forests are overcrowded and unhealthy.
Years of fire suppression in our forests have created dense stands of small trees. After years of drought, these overgrown forests are at high risk of large, catastrophic mega-fires that put our communities and water supplies at risk. The small trees are like straws competing with each other to suck up precious groundwater. They also are like match sticks waiting to combust and flame the fires. Recent severe fires, including the Wallow Fire, burned homes, forced evacuations, degraded water supplies, restricted recreation, forced wildlife relocations and caused damaging erosion. The economic impact to Arizona citizens and businesses counted in the tens of millions of dollars.
The Urgent Need: Restoring Arizona’s Forests
The Nature Conservancy is a leading advocate of thinning our forests to restore a more natural, healthy balance and increase our water yield. New research now awaiting publication shows that forest thinning in the Salt and Verde River basins could yield substantially more water from the forest, because there would be fewer trees competing for underground water. More underground water could mean more water for the streams and rivers, possibly offsetting water losses predicted from warming and drought conditions. Accelerated forest thinning would also reduce the risk of catastrophic forest fires that could befowl our streams and reservoirs with sediment and ash.
What You Can Do
Join The Nature Conservancy in our critically important effort to restore Arizona forests and secure our water future. With your help, we can revive the important services our forests provide to people and nature. Join us. Donate Now!
Working to Save Our Forests
Collaborative efforts are underway throughout the state to minimize the occurrence of mega-fires and improve forest health.
Forest thinning at a large scale will require innovative businesses and new technologies. Get more perspective from a Conservancy expert.
The Four Forest Restoration Initiative, modeled after the White Mountains project, will treat 1 million acres in four national forests in Arizona over the next decade. Learn more
The White Mountain Stewardship Project launched in 2004 thinned trees over 50,000 acres, using the wood products as part of a local business strategy that created 300 jobs and generated an average of $13 million in local spending each year. Learn more
Patrick Graham, the Conservancy's Arizona state director, tells a Congressional committee about Arizona's overgrown forest, and the Conservancy's work to address the problem. Read the testimony
Forest restoration in the White Mountains helped save the Eichelbergers’ home…and their hometown. Learn More
Firescape is aimed at reducing heavy fuel loads and restoring the ecological balance in the Sky Island forests of southern Arizona. Learn more
Northern Arizona's Conservation Manager Sue Sitko explains how the Wallow Fire could have been worse if not for the White Mountain Stewardship Project. Read the Q&A
Each wildlife species has its own fire survival techniques. Find out what fire means for animals in the path of the Wallow Fire. Learn more