Wayne Marx liked his two acres of forest west of Flagstaff and was not eager to thin his ponderosa pines.
After all, he moved to Sherwood Forest Estates from Tucson, where saguaros and other cacti dominate the arid landscape. He likes green trees.
Yet the more Marx learned from the folks at the UACE Forest Health program, the more he was willing to cut down his trees to reduce the threat of wildfire and bark beetles.
"I was very conservative. I did not learn easily," he admitted. The first time the forest health crew surveyed his land and tagged trees to be cut, Marx went out and "took a lot of tags off." Eventually Marx did have his little forest thinned – three times. He came to realize his ponderosas were so thick that very few were actually healthy.
The Forest Health program helps private landowners create healthy forests through education opportunities and with grant support that provides crews to do the tree cutting and hauling at very low cost.
The program is a collaboration of local fire districts and departments, the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, the state forestry division, Coconino County and the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests.
"The goal is to reach basal density – a level of tree density that will not support a crown fire," said Tom DeGomez, Coconino County Extension faculty member.
Today in Sherwood Forest Estates more than 75 percent of the treatable one-acre lots have been thinned to reduce the risk of fire and bark beetles. Marx thanks the "brave folks who did it first. They get a lot of kudos for that."