Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release:July 27, 2004

Secretary Norton Says Federal Agencies are Taking Aggressive Steps To Reduce Hazardous Fuels in Arizona

Arizona ranks fourth among all states in the number of acres treated
between 2001 and 2004


ARIZONA-During a brief visit to Arizona today, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton touted the accomplishments of federal agencies efforts in treating hazardous fuels and protecting the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) from catastrophic wildfires.

"The Interior Department is actively managing lands to reduce hazardous fuels and improve the health of our forests and wild landscapes," Norton said. "The program is particularly vigorous in Arizona where the number of acres treated by federal agencies ranks fourth among all the states between 2001 and 2004."

Since 2001, federal agencies have treated 649,677 acres in Arizona, with 230,666 acres located in the WUI. During the period of 2001 through 2003, federal agencies spent more than $90 million in Arizona on fuels treatment projects alone.

Over the last three years federal agencies provided $7.8 million in grants to assist Arizona communities in volunteer and rural fire activities. Federal agencies also spent $248.6 million for fire suppression in the state from 2001 to 2003.

"We are working closely with state and local governments across the West to minimize the damages and protect those in harms way," Norton said. Norton noted the need to continue to work with state, tribal and local partners in identifying the highest priority areas for fuels treatments. She praised the work of the Arizona Interagency Coordination Group comprised of Arizona State Land Department, the Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service for facilitating and collaborating on hazardous fuels treatment projects.

Norton noted that with the President's Healthy Forest Initiative and the use of Stewardship contracts, federal agencies plan to treat approximately 200,000 acres of hazardous fuels in Arizona during 2005. The BLM is planning 22 Healthy Forests Restoration Act projects in Arizona for 2005, covering 2,522 acres. These projects will focus on hazardous fuels reduction in the WUI and restoration of forest and rangeland health using the environmental assessment process created under the act.

"With the passage of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act and initiatives put in place as part of the President's Healthy Forests Initiative, we have moved forward to better protect our citizens, our communities and natural resources from the ravages of unnaturally severe wildland fires," said Norton.

Norton added that firefighter and public safety is the highest priority. Currently the potential for fire is above normal in Arizona and the state is operating at an elevated risk level. Communities should make sure that their properties are firewise.

Note to Editors: A copy of the report "Protecting Communities and Improving the Health of Our Forests and Rangelands in Arizona," can be obtained at



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