Flagstaff, Arizona

Located in midst of the world’s largest stand of ponderosa pine trees, Flagstaff, Arizona has long been aware of the threat of catastrophic wildfires. Local leaders have advocated for stewardship and management of the region’s forests for decades to reduce hazardous fuels and protect critical watersheds.

The CPAW team visited Flagstaff and worked with city fire officials and planners to learn more about their innovative forest management and land use planning strategies, profiling their successes in this 2016 report. Flagstaff’s tools include:

  • The Greater Flagstaff Forest Partnership. Born in the 1990s, the partnership focuses on issues related to forest health and wildfire impacts. With diverse stakeholders from local and state government agencies, nonprofits, universities, and the city fire department, the Greater Flagstaff Forest Partnership developed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Its efforts to evaluate the city’s wildfire risk also identified approaches to restore and manage the ponderosa pine forests.
  • Prioritizing community outreach. The Flagstaff Fire Department has conducted extensive discussions with the homebuilders association, local real estate and insurance agents, community leaders, engineering firms, and developers. They solicited public comments and integrated citizen concerns into city regulations and codes.
  • WUI Codes. Broad wildfire awareness led Flagstaff residents to adopt WUI codes in 2008. The codes inform development standards including structure density and location, building materials and construction, vegetation management, emergency vehicle access, water supply, and fire protection.
  • Funding for fire mitigation. In 2012, Flagstaff residents approved a $10 million bond to reduce wildfire risk and mitigate post-fire flooding impacts in nearby watersheds. The result was the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project – a collaborative effort between the city, the State of Arizona, and the adjacent Coconino National Forest. Planning and monitoring are underway; prescribed burns, forest thinning, and other activities are planned.
  • Regional Plan. Collectively managing the preservation of natural resources alongside reducing wildfire risk is a complicated process. Flagstaff’s Regional Plan puts it all into a long-term context with policies that focus on investments in forest health and watershed protection, public awareness of the region’s ponderosa pine forests, conservation of diverse ecosystems, and cooperative approaches to forest health practices. Wildfire mitigation is addressed throughout the plan.

Flagstaff’s wildfire adaptation successes are the result of years of collaboration, capacity-building, outreach, public education, visible action, and proven results.

Learn more about Flagstaff’s approach in this report and in the video below.