2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Friends of the Forest (FOF). For the past
quarter century, FOF has partnered with the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National
Forest to help fill the gap between needs and resources. FOF has provided both manpower and
financial resources to assist the District in its operations.
The primary goals of FOF are to help maintain trails and cultural resources, reduce
environmental damage due to human impact, assist in educating the public about our natural
resources, and enhance the forest experience for residents and visitors alike.
Over the years, the need for a group like FOF has increased, as more people use public lands.
The 3 million visitors to Sedona each year have put stress on our trails and infrastructure. But
they also represent an opportunity. They’re eager to learn about Red Rock Country and our
unique cultural heritage, and are receptive to messaging about the need to conserve and
protect our public lands.
Critical to the organization’s success is an active membership of hands-on volunteers who
directly participate in activities. That membership has grown steadily over the years, from
approximately 150 members in the early years to over 550 members today. The number of
hours worked by FOF volunteers has continually increased as well, from just over 10,000 in
1999 to 36,127 in 2018. Since inception, Friends members have volunteered nearly a half
million hours in support of the District.
As District Ranger Nicole Branton notes. “Managing a landscape as diverse as the Red Rock
district with this incredible recreation demand is a challenge that takes an enormous amount of
talent and it is no exaggeration to say that we couldn’t do it without the Friends of the
Forest. Whether it is increasing graffiti or fading pictographs, the Friends are right with us,
figuring out solutions and doing the hard work of carrying them out. Because of the diversity
and expertise of their members, they have come up with solutions that my staff and I would
never have thought of ourselves. I haven’t encountered a land management problem yet that
the Sedona Friends of the Forest cannot help us overcome.”
Programs and initiatives staffed by Friends volunteers have made a significant difference in
protecting the land and educating the public. In fact, this is one of the key reasons for joining
the organization – to make a difference, while along the way learning more about our natural
and cultural resources in the company of like-minded volunteers.
The FOF graffiti removal team keeps our trails free of the eyesores that would otherwise
eventually cover the rocks. This is a growing problem, as can be seen in the amount of time
needed to remove it. In 2010, only 16 hours were spent, rising to 168 hours in 2012. In 2018,
over 1,500 hours were spent removing graffiti.
Volunteers help staff the Red Rock District Visitor Center, providing information to hundreds of
thousands of visitors annually. Without the over 100,000 hours that FOF members have
volunteered, the experience of travelers to Sedona would have been much poorer.
A new area of emphasis has been sponsoring interpretive programs. These public events
include guided walks, demonstrations of ancient technology, and presentations at the Visitor
Center. The trail patrol group interacts with visitors hiking our extensive trail system. While on
patrol, they evaluate the condition of the trails, reporting any problems.
Volunteer docents at the Palatki and V-Bar-V heritage sites introduce visitors to the cliff
dwellings, pictographs and petroglyphs left by ancient Native Americans who inhabited the
Verde Valley. These and scores of other sites have been extensively photographed, including
state-of-the-art 3D modeling.
An ongoing emphasis for FOF has been trail maintenance. Volunteers have labored throughout
the District maintaining and improving our trails. In fact, over one 2-month period, the Hotshots
Trail Crew removed 141 trees that were blocking trails. Since 1999, Friends members
have volunteered nearly 45,000 hours to maintain and expand our trails.
Throughout its history, FOF has had a significant focus on monitoring and improving the health
of our waterways. The River Rangers group helps support Forest Service efforts to protect both
the Verde River and Fossil Creek. Volunteers have sampled Oak Creek water since 1999. Sites
along Fossil Creek are now being monitored for water and air quality.
Friends of the Forest is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, with membership open to all who
are dedicated to maintaining, protecting, and restoring the scenic beauty of our National Forest
lands in the Sedona area for the enjoyment and use of present and future generations. For
more information about Friends of the Forest, please visit www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org.