Oakless Creek Canyon
Flagstaff, Ariz., is shaping up to be the testing grounds for the Bush administration’s Healthy Forests initiative, a highly controversial effort to ease environmental reviews of logging projects on many Western public lands and ban reviews entirely in areas where forest fires could threaten human developments. Some 2,000 suburban Flagstaff homes are located just seven miles upwind of one of the state’s most dangerous fire regions, Oak Creek Canyon; many of those homes are $500,000-plus mansions, and a fire in the region could do as much as $1 billion damage in the subdivision of Forest Highlands alone. This week, the U.S. Forest Service is expected to okay a plan to cut down hundreds of thousands of trees in the area and burn about 16 square miles of forest. That move is sure to attract criticism from environmentalists, especially if the USFS allows timber companies to cut trees more than 18 inches in diameter.