Good Earth Power AZ (GEPAZ) came to Arizona in September 2013 to build a model that would prove that sustainable landscape-scale forest restoration is possible through private economic development and without direct government subsidies. We wanted to prove that it was not only possible, but also profitable, so that other regions could benefit from Arizona’s example.

What we initially underestimated was the degree of industry building that would be required to fulfill the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) vision and contract. The logging and wood products sectors were long dormant or non-existent on the west side of the project region and similar industry was struggling to re-awaken and get its footing in the east. The infrastructure and capacity necessary to support the massive restoration, processing and transportation requirements of a forest health initiative spanning the entire width of northern Arizona did not exist.

It has been a learning curve for GEPAZ, to say the least. The pendulum, however, is now swinging in a more positive direction and, after some false starts and more than a few frustrating delays, GEPAZ’s infrastructure projects are finally gaining momentum. On June 22, our interim mill in Williams received an operating permit and is open and accepting logs. At the same time, GEPAZ is reviewing bids to construct a new, state-of-the-art $40 million mill and processing facility on a nearby parcel that we leased more than a year ago. The Good Earth Trucking fleet of trucks and trailers continues to grow, and the GEPAZ-owned Lumberjack Mill in Heber should have a second shift operational this week and three shifts active by the end of July.

The weather has finally moderated and GEPAZ is back in the forest, cutting trees in the Apache-Sitgreaves and making plans to return to west side task orders next week. Slash piles have been significantly reduced on completed acreage and are expected to be gone by early next week. At the same time, GEPAZ is working with local agencies to hire Arizona workers to man the Williams and Lumberjack mills, and to support operations in the forest.

From Good Earth Power: