Film explores the future of imperiled Western forests


Ecologists say the treasured ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests of the American West are under attack from seemingly every direction. Armies of bark beetles, devastating disease outbreaks and unstoppable infernos threaten the beauty, function and life of these important wildlands and the people who depend upon them.

How these forests became degraded, how the damage has escalated in the last century and how time is running out to restore health and sustainability to these landscapes are explored in a 30-minute documentary produced by Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute. Forests Under Fire: The Race to Restore the American West airs at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 28, on Flagstaff cable channel 4.

As wildfire season approaches in Arizona—one of the most fire-ravaged states in the country—the combination of a dry winter, windy spring and warming climate has unhealthy landscapes at risk again.

“There are three zones in northern Arizona that are particularly vulnerable right now and at risk for dangerously large, unnaturally intense crown fires,” said Wally Covington, executive director for the Ecological Restoration Institute. “If a fire were to get started on a typical dry, windy day in Oak Creek Canyon, in the Payson area or in the White Mountains, we could see the same destructive fire behavior on a scale of hundreds of thousands of acres as we experienced with last year’s Wallow Fire.”