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Phase II Utility Maintenance in Utility Corridors on Arizona Forests
Southwest Region, July 17, 2008
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On July 17, 2008, Arizona Ecological Services Office issued a biological opinion to the Forest Service, finishing over two years of work to help the Forest Service and utility companies in Arizona comply with the Endangered Species Act in their management of powerline corridors in five national forests in the state.

In 2006, in response to the severe wildfire threat and concerns over the need to remove  hazardous vegetation along power line corridors on National Forest lands in Arizona, Arizona Ecological Services Office (AESO) entered into a section 7 consultation agreement with Region 3 of the Forest Service and six utility companies operating in Arizona.  AESO established a consultation team of four biologists to work with the Forest Service and utility company biologists through two phases of the programmatic consultation.  The first phase dealt with the immediate need to remove hazardous vegetation, and the second phase addressed longer term maintenance of vegetation and structures along existing corridors.  In addition to the complexity of this two phase programmatic consultation, AESO needed to meet tight time frames so the companies could address the large backlog of maintenance work needed.  Since many of these power lines service the metropolitan Phoenix area, loss of power because of tree falls and the potential for wildfires from overgrown vegetation was a significant issue.  The project was complicated by the number of individuals and parties involved.  Significant issues arose regarding how to characterize and deal with interrelated/interdependent effects and cumulative effects, and how to address incidental take for some of the species. 

The AESO and Forest Service consultation teams worked closely with the companies throughout the process and to develop meaningful conservation measures to minimize impacts from vegetation clearing in these corridors.   This programmatic consultation process has been put forth as a model for use in other states to streamline and expedite the section 7 consultation process for individual corridor maintenance projects. 

Contact Info: Nick Carrillo, (602) 242-0210x203, nick_carrillo@fws.gov



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