Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
In 2002, a wildfire in eastern Arizona set about half a billion acres of land aflame, destroying hundreds of homes. Overcrowded forests were part of the culprit, which often increases wildfire intensity and makes containment tougher. To reduce the risk of wildfires, the Arizona Republic reports that public-private partnerships for forest restoration seem to be promising. The White Mountain Stewardship Project, started in 2004, was created to thin 150,000 acres of land by removing smaller trees, while also providing the side benefit of boosting the local economy. Forestry companies remove the trees and make wood products out of them, conservationists monitor the thinning's environmental effect and government officials supervise. A midway review of the 10-year project shows positive results: 50,000 acres thinned, 319 jobs created annually and an estimated $13 million flowing into the local economy each year. A similar program, the Four Forests Restoration Initiative, was drafted in 2009 to thin 1 million acres of Arizona land over the next few decades.