Flagstaff Proposition #405: Watershed Investment Program Funded by a City Bond
Victoria Stempniewicz1, Sharon Masek-Lopez1, Erik Nielsen1, Abe Springer1
1Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff Proposition #405 is a restoration project that will use a citizen approved $10 million bond from the City of Flagstaff to treat watersheds on National Forest land at risk of catastrophic wildfire to protect the city’s water resources. This is one of the first Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) projects to use tax payer money on federal land, the first PES project resulting from direct citizen vote and the first PES project financed through a property tax.
In the southwestern US, catastrophic wildfires pose a threat to forest ecosystem health, including water quality and supply. Studies show that thinning Ponderosa Pine and Mixed Conifer forests can increase water yield as well as reduce the risk of crown fire (Hibbert, 1967; Bosch and Hewlett, 1982; Zou et. al., 2010). Although the US Forest Service (USFS) is attempting to improve forest conditions through the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), there are several at-risk areas that are cost prohibitive to treat, including the Dry Lake Hills area and Lake Mary Watershed near Flagstaff. A catastrophic fire in the Dry Lake Hills area would likely result in high intensity flooding and debris flows causing devastating damage to Flagstaff. Fire in the Lake Mary Watershed would compromise the largest surface water reservoir for the City, supplying Flagstaff with approximately 50% of its drinking water. The #405 bond election on the November 2012 general election ballot resulted in a 73% “yes” vote.