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How thinning brush in the Tonto National Forest will actually help it in the long run

Wildcat Fire
A plane drops flame retardant during initial attack on the Wildcat Fire on Saturday, May 18, 2024.

Crews recently began the second leg of a project on the Tonto National Forest to restore lingering damage from the 1990 Dude Fire.

The goal is to restore thousands of acres of woodland and ponderosa pines. In the decades since the fire, a lot of brush has grown back.

Matt Paciorek, the district ranger for Payson, said thinning it out will have more benefits than just making room for replanting the trees that once stood there.

“Knocking back the brush,” he said, “it’s going to make it easier to prescribe burn in the future.”

Collaboration with state partners and agencies like the National Forest Service, he added, have made a huge difference.

“We're basically doubling the amount of acres with our partners that we would have been able to do alone,” said Paciorek.

Paciorek said the project area also surrounds a number of small communities that will benefit from the increased wildfire protection.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.
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