Missoula, MT — Two trees that give Williams and Flagstaff their most beautiful fall image are the oak and the aspen. The Kaibab aspen lines Perkinsville Road—also known as South Road in Williams—and Forest Road 111 which leads to the top of Bill Williams Mountain. The road to Dogtown lake has a number of aspens and oak.
In the spring and summer, the fully-leaved oaks and aspens provide shade for many of the hiking trails and camping spots. In the fall, the color of the leaves of the aspens mix with the changing color of the oak to create images of beauty.
Last March, Neil Weintraub—Kaibab National Forest Archaeologist—held a field trip to the Keyhole Sink. The trailhead to the Keyhole Sink is across from the Oak Hill Snow Play area along Route 66 east of Williams. There are a few aspens at the Keyhole Sink and during the tour, he brought to light the plight of the endangered Kaibab aspens. The aspens are dying off for a number of reasons.
There are groups, however, attempting to bring the aspens back to life.
The National Forest Foundation (NFF) [Facebook] recently expanded its partnership with the Salt River Project (SRP) to restore imperiled aspen forests on the Kaibab National Forest in Northern Arizona. A leading partner of the NFF’s reforestation efforts, SRP has been supporting landscape-scale reforestation in Northern Arizona through their Trees for Change program since 2009. This year, customer contributions collected through SRP’s Trees for Change program will restore aspen stands, a unique and imperiled forest type in Northern Arizona.
Aspen forests currently comprise less than one percent of forests on the southern half of the Kaibab National forest. Aspens provide particularly high ecological value and diversity, but these important biodiversity hotspots have declined in recent years due to competition from ponderosa pine, browsing damage from elk and deer, and fire exclusion. To improve the health of these important ecosystems, the NFF and the Kaibab National Forest have partnered on an ambitious two-year long, comprehensive aspen restoration project across 200 acres of the Kaibab National Forest.
With funding from SRP, the NFF and the Kaibab National Forest are constructing temporary fencing to exclude elk and deer, which allows aspen forests to regenerate. Additionally, the partners are planting young aspen seedlings to expedite aspen stand restoration. The project, now halfway completed, is expected to regenerate approximately 200,000 young aspen seedlings.
“Last year, the Forest Service on the Williams Ranger District was successful in reforesting thousands of aspens with the Salt River Project’s contributions. The funding that SRP and the NFF provided was put towards work that would have taken many years to get completed with the regular budget,” said Richard Gonzalez of the Kaibab National Forest.
Since 2009, SRP has been a leading tree planting partner of the NFF, expanding the Forest Service’s capacity to accomplish critical reforestation projects following wildfire. To date, SRP has planted nearly one million trees on the Kaibab, Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Northern Arizona. Native seedlings planted through this unique partnership help re-establish wildlife habitat, sequester carbon dioxide and stabilize watersheds after wildfires.
“As a long-term partner of ours, the Salt River Project’s commitment to support important reforestation projects is helping restore Treasured Landscapes in Northern Arizona. We are proud to partner with SRP and admire their commitment to improving Northern Arizona’s National Forests through innovative partnerships,” said Bill Possiel, President of the National Forest Foundation.
Across the country, the forested headwaters of our National Forests and Grasslands provide water for 123 million Americans in more than 3,400 communities. The Phoenix metropolitan area is no exception, relying on water that is captured by National Forests in the Salt and Verde River watersheds. Recognizing the importance of these forested headwaters, SRP has invested in critical restoration projects on these National Forests. In addition to the Trees for Change program, SRP and the NFF developed the Northern Arizona Forest Fund. Dollars contributed through the Northern Arizona Forest Fund are invested in other important forest health projects on National Forests in the Salt and Verde River watersheds.
“Thanks to the generosity of our customers and their commitment to reforestation efforts, we are proud to support the efforts of the National Forest Foundation,” said Lori Singleton, Director of Emerging Customer Programs.