City Council Meeting - FINAL

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Meeting Date: 01/04/2022  
Co-Submitter: Stacey Brechler-Knaggs
From: Jerolyn Byrne, Wildland Firewise Specialist

Consideration and Approval of Grant Award:  Healthy Forest Initiative Grant for Greater Flagstaff Area Healthy & Resilient Forest Project
Approve the Grant Agreement for the Greater Flagstaff Healthy & Resilient Forest Project for the Healthy Forest Initiative (HFI) Grant Program from the AZ Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) in the amount of  $357,143 - $250,000 grant share is provided to a match of $107,143. Of the $107,143 match, $21,840 will be city staff time to manage the grant and $81,463 will be provided by private property owners for forest treatment work on their property. 
Executive Summary:
The Healthy Forest Initiative 2021 grant agreement will provide 70% funding for property owners in Flagstaff to conduct forest treatments for improving forest health and wildfire risk reduction on their properties. The other 30% funding will be matched by the property owner for the work to be done. The city has no financial obligation for this funding mechanism. The private properties identified for this grant are not directly related to the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP), though these properties have been identified as being priority for treatment as they are adjacent to the FWPP footprint, as well as other treatment areas related to wildfire risk reduction/ forest management activities. Goals of this project include improving/maintaining our forest ecosystems, preventing long-term damage to critical watersheds, reducing catastrophic fire and post-fire flooding events, and maintaining community well-being (to include public safety - first responders, residents, and visitors).
Financial Impact:
Total cost to conduct this work is expected to be $2,500/acre (max). This grant will provide 70% of the required funding ($1750). The remaining 30% ($750) will be provided by the property owner and will be of no financial burden to the city. (The total cost/acre is higher than typical for open-space type thinning operations, and is due to the presence of fences, homes, overhead wires, other infrastructure, temporary street and traffic impacts, debris cleanup, etc).
Policy Impact:
Implementation of forest treatments funded by this award will:
1. Meet council goals and regional plan (see Connection to Council Goals, Regional Plan, and/or Strategic Plan), to include Public Safety initiatives;
2. Address the goals of the Greater Flagstaff Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) adopted by Council in 2005 (last updated 2018); and
3. Further application of the Flagstaff Wildland Urban Interface Code, adopted by Council in 2008.
4. Promote the State's Forest Action Plan, and
5. Advances the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.
Connection to PBB Priorities/Objectives, Carbon Neutrality Plan & Regional Plan:
Priority Based Budget Key Community Priorities and Objectives
Forest Treatments . . .
Climate Change: improve/maintain forest ecosystems and positions them to better withstand change-agents such as climate change.
Water Conservation: prevents long-term damage to critical watersheds.
Environmental and Natural Resources: protects and sustains our natural environment, reducing catastrophic fire and post-fire flooding events and insect infestations, preserving valuable wildlife habitat, allowing for recreational ventures and business operations, and maintaining community well-being (to include public safety - first responders, residents, and visitors). 
Community Outreach: demonstrates need for, and solutions to, our forest health crisis, allowing us to showcase work, conduct field tours, and encourage residents to take action to protect their neighborhood, property, and home.
Town and Gown: permits us to continue to attract students to a working outdoor laboratory to conduct studies, gather information, interact with the public, and support our efforts while furthering their education and experience. 
Code Compliance: addresses requirements of the City's Wildland Urban Interface Code (2008) and demonstrate their effectiveness. 
Carbon Neutrality Plan:
  • Forest Management Implications for Carbon Neutrality:
    • Consolidating carbon stocks in fewer, larger trees reduces the risk of carbon loss from fire
    • The pre-suppression forest structure provides the best target from maintaining sustainable carbon stocks and ecological function
Regional Plan
Environmental Planning & Conservation – Vision for the Future: In 2013, the long-term health and viability of our natural resource environment is maintained through strategic planning for resource conservation and protection.
Policy E&C.3.3 – Invest in forest health and watershed protection measures.
Policy E&C.6.1 – Encourage public awareness that the region’s ponderosa pine forest is a fire-dependent ecosystem and strive to restore more natural and sustainable forest composition, structure, and processes.
Policy E&C.6.3 – Promote protection, conservation, and ecological restoration of the region’s diverse ecosystem type and associated animals.
Policy E&C.6.6 – Support collaborative efforts for forest health initiatives or practices, such as the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), to support healthy forests and protect our water system.
Policy E&C.10.2 – Protect, conserve, and when possible, enhance and restore wildlife habitat on public land.
Has There Been Previous Council Decision on This:
There have been no previous decisions on Healthy Forest Initiative grant program as it is new for 2021 from the state of Arizona. This particular grant program is set to replace the previous grant Wildland Fire Hazardous Fuels program in which council has acted on and consented to prior years funding.
Options and Alternatives:
Two options exist:
Approve Agreement - this will permit the forest treatment work to proceed as planned,
allowing full-use of the grant funds (termination date of Dec 30, 2024);
Reject Agreement - this will require individual property owners to fully fund the work, and
will result in far less treatment occurring.
Severe and destructive wildfire, followed by post-fire flooding, are annual and ever-present threats to our forests and community. Areas that have undergone forest treatments (ie – thinning, debris disposal, and/or prescribed fire) are not only healthier and more resilient to damaging agents, they also provide proven barriers to both, enhance public safety and infrastructure protection, and suffer less damage from insect outbreaks and serious wildfires than what occurs on non-treated sites.
Key Considerations:
The forest treatments proposed are part of our overall plan and continuing collaboration with our citizens, as well as our local and regional partners. Wildfires within the city are a challenge to manage/suppress due to a variety of factors. They also present a threat to adjacent neighborhoods, sites, and businesses in the area. Forest treatments such as these proposed have proven highly effective in reducing fire severity, improving fire protection, and increasing survivability of homes both within Flagstaff and elsewhere. Grant funds will permit selective thinning (ie – tree cutting) and debris disposal (chipping and removal) by local tree service companies and/or the property owner themselves. The work will be conducted in the following two-step process:
A) Project set-up (assessment, boundary identification, tree marking, site inspection, etc), award and administration, reporting, issuance of payments, and final debris disposal work will be coordinated/inspected by WFM staff with property owner and vendor and;
B) Cutting, debris disposal, and rehabilitation will be carried out by a contractor of property owner’s choosing - aligning with city’s procurement process of a minimum of 3 bids. Homeowners will sign a vegetation management permit and agreement to maintain the implemented work. The Greater Flagstaff CWPP, the City's Wildland Urban Interface Code, the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project, and other efforts such as that afforded by this grant, demonstrate our community's continual commitment to reducing wildfire risk.
Expanded Financial Considerations:
This project is paid for entirely by the grant and private funding. No city cash contributions required. Forest treatments of this kind are a costly investment to our citizens. The incentive provided by this grant will increase interest, motivation, and reduce costs to Flagstaff citizens, while providing the added benefits of improved forest health and resiliency, wildfire risk reduction and increased fire protection.
Community Benefits and Considerations:
Multiple partners have been engaged in forest health improvements, restoration, and wildfire risk reduction effort in our community for 20+ years, to include Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership, the NAU Ecological Restoration Institute, AZ Game & Fish, US Fish and Wildlife Service, AZ State Forestry & Fire Management, and the Stakeholders in our community. Successfully completing the planned forest treatments will enhance protection of our forests, adjacent neighborhoods, and the community’s view shed, while promoting the vigor, resiliency, and sustainability of the trees themselves.
Community Involvement:
Inform: In the months leading up to the submitting this grant proposal, several targeted outreach notices were made throughout the selected neighborhoods. Since then, the neighborhoods have been informed of overall progress of the grant application, proposal, process for eligibility etc through various means, including public meeting, briefings, neighborhood contacts, etc. Specific to this project, we have worked to inform various stakeholders of desired outcomes, plans, schedules, and status.
Consult: We’ve worked with AZ Dept of Forestry and Fire Management regarding plans and treatment options, as well as with the residents and local tree services to assess ability of work.
Involve: Following treatment work conducted by local tree services, the Winter Wood for Warmth program may been involved in removing firewood from the area for distribution to area residents. In addition, we have made firewood available to the general public on a free permit basis.
Collaborate: The proposed work is compatible with other forest treatment work in the Flagstaff area, and is in-alignment with efforts conducted by the US Forest Service, AZ State Forestry, the City’s Wildland Fire Management program, and the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership. It will compliment work currently being planned and that will be implemented as part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. It is in accordance with the Greater Flagstaff Area Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) and supports the City’s Wildland Urban Interface Fire Code (WUI), adopted by Council in 2005 and 2008, respectfully.
Empower: This will empower and engender neighborhood protection efforts and future grant program/project work of this type in other areas of the city as well.
NFHF 21-202


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