City Council Meeting - FINAL

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Meeting Date: 09/05/2023  
Co-Submitter: Dylan Guffey From: Neil Chapman, Forest Health Supervisor

Consideration and Approval of Contract:  Supplemental Project Agreement with Coconino National Forest in the amount of $409,995.63 for fire control feature preparations via tree thinning on the Flagstaff Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest.
Approve the supplemental project agreement with the Coconino National Forest in the amount of $409,995.63.
Executive Summary:
This agreement provides for tree cutting and slash treatment on the Flagstaff Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest to prepare fire control features, for example roads, so they can be used to more effectively manage wildfires. 
  • These planned fire control features are called Potential Operational Delineations (POD's.)
  • This project meets wildlife habitat improvement, ecosystem restoration, and fuels reduction objectives, as described in the Four Forest Restoration Imitative (4FRI) Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  • The City will cut Ponderosa Pine and other conifer species according to diameter and spacing guidelines in the prescription, which will be provided prior to the start of work.
  • Slash treatment will generally consist of hand-piling, though some larger tree boles may be moved to roads using a tool such as log arch to facilitate public firewood gathering. High concentrations of existing dead/down logs will also be piled.
The Rocky Mountain Research Station Wildfire Risk Management Science (WRMS) Team co-developed Potential Operational Delineations (PODs) to pre-plan for fire using a risk management approach, and to give land managers a formal process for developing landscape-scale wildfire response options before fires start. PODs are spatial units or containers defined by potential control features, such as roads and ridge tops, within which relevant information on forest conditions, ecology, and fire potential can be summarized. PODs combine local fire knowledge with advanced spatial analytics to help managers develop a common understanding of risks, management opportunities, and desired outcomes to determine fire management objectives. The PODs pre-planning framework has been applied on over 40 national forests and counting, often including adjacent landowners and jurisdictions for cross-boundary planning.

Sometimes, fires resulting from natural ignitions can be strategically managed to achieve goals similar to a prescribed fire: ecological restoration, watershed health, reduced risk of catastrophic wildfire, and reduced future fire suppression costs. When values are likely to benefit, the right kind of fire can be managed for risk reduction and restoration objectives rather than immediately suppressed. Collaborative pre-planning during the PODs process helps to identify these opportunities, as well as conditions and locations where rapid initial attack may still be the best option to protect sensitive resources and assets. Where and when possible, leveraging natural ignitions for non-suppression objectives can reduce fire risk to adjacent high-value PODs over the near term, with benefits for maintaining lower risk conditions with future actions. The PODs framework naturally lends itself to planning and prioritizing other fuel and vegetation projects, as well as outreach and communication efforts. 

One key aspect of PODs is the physical cross-boundary, i.e., the recognition that fire readily crosses boundaries and assessment of risks and control opportunities irrespective of ownership boundaries. Another key aspect of PODs is the social cross-boundary, i.e., the recognition of the need to bring multiple partners, cooperators, and stakeholders to the table to develop a shared understanding of values, opportunities, and challenges, to foster collaborative, cross-boundary planning and prioritization, and to support "shared stewardship for fire." 

Financial Impact:
Total Project Budget: $409,995.63 (financial plan is attached)

Coconino National Forest is providing $379,670 in cash to the City of Flagstaff for project implementation (staff time and contracts.)
The City of Flagstaff is providing $30,325.32 in matching funds. The Flagstaff Fire Department Wildfire Management (WFM) section has budgeted for this agreement in FY2023-24.  This agreement is budgeted in Fire Grant section of budget and the match will be covered within the budgeted staffing costs.
Policy Impact:
Connection to PBB Priorities/Objectives, Carbon Neutrality Plan & Regional Plan:
Priority Based Budget Key Community Priorities and Objectives
  • High Performing Governance: Implement innovative local government programs
  • Safe and Healthy Community: Ensure built environment is safe through the use of consistent
    standards, rules and regulations, & land use practices
  • Environmental Stewardship: Promote, protect & enhance a healthy, sustainable environment &
    its natural resources
  • Environmental Stewardship: Strengthen Flagstaff's resilience to climate change impacts on
    built, natural, economic, health, & social systems
Carbon Neutrality Plan
  • CR-1: Ensure all mitigation actions improve Flagstaff's ability to adapt to the future.
  • CR-2: Strengthen existing community systems to create resilience to both short-term shocks
    and long-term change.
Consolidating carbon stocks in fewer, larger trees reduces the risk of carbon loss from fire. The
pre-suppression forest structure provides the best target for maintaining sustainable carbon stocks and ecological function. Implementing prescribed fire after mechanical thinning treatments supports the maintenance of the restored natural tree structure and pattern.

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:
Council has not previously discussed this specific Supplemental Project Agreement.
This Supplemental Project Agreement is housed under the Master Participating Agreement that Council approved on April 19th, 2022.
Options and Alternatives:
Approving this agreement will allow this important work to begin in a timely manner. Not approving the agreement will delay this work and possibly allow the funds to be diverted to USFS projects outside of the Coconino National Forest. 
Severe and destructive wildfire is an annual and ever-present threat to our forests and the community. Areas that have undergone science based fuel reduction treatments are healthier, more fire adapted, and enhance public safety and infrastructure protection. 
Key Considerations:
Completion of forest treatments within the FWPP footprint have proven highly effective in reducing occurrence and severity of wildfire and post-fire flood events.

The planned location of this project is along Forest Rd 535 just west of highway 89A south of Flagstaff. Prepping POD's south and west of Flagstaff is a priority for wildfire risk reduction efforts. 
Expanded Financial Considerations:
Wildland Fire Management staff time contributions are budgeted within the Watershed Resource and Infrastructure Protection fee. USFS contributions are budgeted within Fire Department grants.

This agreement includes funds to cover the City indirect cost rate.
Community Benefits and Considerations:
The Flagstaff community will experience improved forest management due to this agreement. Approval of this Agreement, and the forest treatment work which will result, will reduce wildfire risk to adjacent neighborhoods, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat, while promoting forest health and long-term ecological sustainability.

This agreement will also support forest management objectives that consolidate forest carbon stocks in fewer, larger trees, reducing the risk of carbon loss from catastrophic fire.
Community Involvement:
Inform: Following the success of the 2012 bond election, FFD has continued to work at keeping the community informed of what we are doing, and why.

Involve: Project outreach efforts will go directly to the Flagstaff community. FFD staff are available to the public to address any concerns.
Financial Plan
Staff legal and agreements approval


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