Verde Valley News – The Wood for Life project, a collaborative partnership that originated in northern Arizona, has won the Forest Service Volunteers and Service Award in Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships for the fiscal year of 2021.
The National Forest Foundation accepted the award on behalf of the partnership in a ceremony held last month in Flagstaff.
The Wood for Life initiative provides resources and a sustainable source of firewood to local tribes as a byproduct of forest restoration efforts. During these restoration efforts, small-diameter timber is removed from forest land and delivered to tribal partners who distribute it among communities to help heat indigenous homes.
The Wood for Life project also reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires by removing highly flammable dead trees as part of those large-scale forest restoration efforts.
Many Navajo and Hopi households rely on coal and wood for home heating and are vulnerable to energy uncertainty.
By removing fuel wood from the northern Arizona landscape and reallocating it to native households, the Wood for Life project demonstrates success in sustaining our national forests while also delivering life-saving benefits to our neighboring tribal nations.
“We are honored to receive this award and grateful for the national recognition,” said Sasha Stortz, Southwest Program Senior Manager at the NFF. “Wood For Life is a collaboration to help communities and forests thrive in unison. It takes every one of the partners to make this effort happen, including thousands of hours of effort by youth and volunteers who process and distribute firewood provided from restoration projects. Together, we’re building a model for successful partnership relevant to many places across the country where forests need restoration and communities rely on firewood.”
Both the Coconino National Forest and the NFF celebrated the receipt of the award alongside project partners such as the National Forest Foundation, Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Koho4Hopi, Chiz4Cheii, Ancestral Lands Conservation Legacy and many more.
Wood for Life launched in 2019 in northern Arizona and has since expanded to southwest Colorado. Project partners are exploring the possibility of expanding to additional states knowing that many communities affected by COVID-19 could benefit from the project.