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2/12/2013 12:41:00 PM
Williams Ranger District looks at options to thin Bill Williams Mountain
Options include logging and burning to prevent catastrophic fire and floods
Radio towers sit atop Bill Williams Mountain. The Williams Ranger District hopes to thin the mountain to avoid catastrophic fire. Photo/Kaibab National Forest
Radio towers sit atop Bill Williams Mountain. The Williams Ranger District hopes to thin the mountain to avoid catastrophic fire. Photo/Kaibab National Forest
The view of Bill Williams Mountain from Summit Mountain on the Williams Ranger District. Officials with the Williams Ranger District hope to begin thinning Bill Williams Mountain to protect the city’s watershed. Photo/Kaibab National Forest
The view of Bill Williams Mountain from Summit Mountain on the Williams Ranger District. Officials with the Williams Ranger District hope to begin thinning Bill Williams Mountain to protect the city’s watershed. Photo/Kaibab National Forest


Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter


WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Williams Ranger District officials hope to take preventative steps on Bill Williams Mountain including thinning, logging and prescribed burning to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire.

Williams District Ranger Martie Schramm talked about the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under review for the 15,200 acre restoration project in a presentation to the Williams Rotary Club Jan. 31.

"When you look at the mountain, the mountain really is pretty when you look at it from this distance," Schramm said. "For those of us that have a forestry background, you go up there and start walking around and unfortunately the mountain really isn't that pretty, it's so thick. There's so many trees, we've got to get some of those out of there."

The proposed forest restoration would help prevent fires. The summer months are particularly dangerous for lightening fires, Schramm said.

"It's just going to take one strike in the right place at the right time," she said. "Being able to respond to some of those lightening fires, especially on Bill Williams Mountain, is getting more and more difficult."

To solve this problem, the Forest Service is considering thinning and logging.

"Thinning is trees anywhere from, well, really small trees and then going up to about 18 inches in diameter," Schramm said.

Schramm said she hopes workers will be able to do table logging and helicopter logging, methods necessary because of the steepness of the mountain.

Another possibility for forest restoration is prescribed burning.

"And of course that's pretty scary and there is big risk," Schramm said, adding that staff will evaluate the weather conditions before using fire.

Schramm named several issues the staff has faced in putting together the forest restoration plan.

Forest Service staff must consider the Mexican spotted owl habitat and Arizona Bugbane plant population on Bill Williams Mountain when planning this project.

The Forest Service has also met with Native American tribes to discuss their concerns with the restoration.

"The mountain is very important to them spiritually and then it has a lot of cultural significance to them as well," Schramm said.

The most significant issue regarding this project is that Bill Williams Mountain is the watershed for the city of Williams.

Schramm brought up the Schultz Fire that burned 15,000 acres northeast of Flagstaff in 2010.

"It's pretty devastating to think about what perhaps could have happened to this city if that fire had occurred over here," she said, referencing the watershed.

Ranger district employees started work on the forest restoration project in 2011 by getting comments from different groups, including Fish and Wildlife Service, county commissioners and Williams residents. Experts such as wildlife biologists, archaeologists, tribal liaisons and soil specialists also helped with the project.

The regional office will review the EIS and Schramm said they hope to publish a decision in early summer. From there, the project will undergo a 45-day appeal period and if all goes well, Schramm said implementation could start in the fall.

Since the project includes such a large area, workers would complete it in phases. The process could take years.

Money for the project could come from the Forest Service budget, watershed improvement money and grants.




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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: old but not done

During a "controlled" burn, the purpose is to burn the litter on the forest floor. It is not to BURN trees. They obviously were not checking the weather conditions a few years ago, and that is why that burn got away from them. There is always a risk however. So the question is let mother nature burn it all up one of these days when lightening strikes in the right place, let the loggers destroy the mountain, or try a little thinning and small controlled burns.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: Bud Lockhart

The Forest Service needs to relax. They don't have to prove their existence to anybody by burning something. It would be a great benefit if they could cut and clear the dead wood so that the towns people could come and use it for the winter. Burning it is a waste of good firewood that could be used for keeping us warm and thereby preventing forest fires.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: williams resident

Thank you, Forest Service for managing todays resources for tomorrows generations.

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Article comment by: Ron Pauly

To bad folks cant go more than a little off the road to get fire wood.
Sure, pick a nice windy day to try and burn the town down.Im not impressed with the record of starting fires on purpose.
Maybe letting nature take its course is the answer.
Or let companys harvest wood.


Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Article comment by: Keith Wilmot

Here we go with the burning again... Don't forget the Forest Service almost burned down the town a few years ago. And, they were supposedly checking the weather conditions then.



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