FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — More than a dozen volunteers have been collecting data in the ponderosa pines, streams and grasslands surrounding Flagstaff in a forest health and watershed restoration project.

The Arizona Daily Sun reports (http://bit.ly/2dEwPQV) the work is tied to the Four Forest Restoration Initiative covering 2.4 million acres in northern Arizona.

Coconino National Forest hydrologist Tom Runyon said it would have taken years for the forest service to survey miles of streambed where volunteers worked.

“We are accomplishing way more than what the Forest Service would otherwise be able to do without these volunteers,” he said.

The Grand Canyon Trust held three summer trips for volunteers.

Data will help the Forest Service prioritize projects and set up research on how forest treatments could impact watersheds.

Volunteers followed water as it flowed from Mormon Mountain, into the forest and then Lake Mary.

The lake is one of the main water sources for Flagstaff.

Volunteer Jim Merrill said volunteers are gratified their data will be put to use rather than go potentially unseen.

“This is moving data collection into the 21st century,” Merrill said. “For me in the field it makes it seem like the work is so much more valuable. It’s a real reason to be here.”

Volunteer Andy Gould of Flagstaff said, “This is a story of how the forest has evolved over centuries and how it’s being affected by anthropogenic impacts.”

Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, http://www.azdailysun.com/