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McCain, Flake write secretary of agriculture on wildfire threat

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Sen. John McCain, R-AZ Sen. John McCain, R-AZ
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ
WASHINGTON (CBS5) -

U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-AZ, and Jeff Flake, R-AZ, are asking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to review Gov. Jan Brewer's requested change to some national forests in Arizona.

Brewer has requested that portions of national forests in Arizona be designated as "insect and disease treatment areas," to allow for forest management projects to mitigate the increased risk of wildfires.

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We are writing to request that you promptly review the Governor of Arizona's request that portions of our national forests be designated as "insect and disease treatment areas." Our state has and will continue to experience significant pine bark beetle infestations, which dramatically increases tree mortality and, therefore, the threat of wildfires.

As you know, the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 was recently amended by Congress (P.L. 113-79) to allow the Secretary of Agriculture, at the request of the Governor, to designate certain national forest lands as insect and disease treatment areas and, as a result, allow for hazardous fuels reduction projects at those sites to be prioritized and expedited.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona State Forester have consulted with the Forest Service in identifying ten treatment areas across all six of our state's national forest units totaling 182,186 acres. We strongly support designating these ten project sites as we strive towards landscape-scale forest management under the White Mountain Stewardship Contract and the Four Forests Restoration Initiative. The Governor's request covers the following locations:

Big Lake in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (3,000 acres)

Escudilla East in Apache Sitgreaves National Forest (66,000 acres)

Greens Peak in Apache Sitgreaves National Forests (2,978 acres)

Larson in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (25,775 acres)

Mogollon Ranch in Coconino National Forest (15,000 acres)

Pinaleno in Coronado National Forest (6,000 acres)

Raspberry in Kaibab National Forest (3,000 acres)

Spruce Mountain/Groom Creek in Prescott National Forest (3,000 acres)

Christopher Creek in Tonto National Forest (32,358 acres)

Parallel Canyon-Cherry Creek in Tonto National Forest (25,075 acres)

Arizona has entered an early wildfire season due to regional drought, and we cannot stress enough the importance of mitigating bark beetle mortality. This is critical for preserving forest ecosystems and protecting human life and property. While we recognize that you must review this requests along with the requests of other Western states, we urge you to act quickly and give due consideration to Arizona's findings in manner consistent with established rules and guidelines for this program.

Sincerely,

John McCain

Jeff Flake

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