Environmental groups fight forest thinning project near Santa Fe

New Mexico

Environmental groups are trying to stop a thinning project near Hyde State Park in Santa Fe. 

The Forest Service plans to thin more than 1,800 acres in the Santa Fe National Forest, but some groups filed a lawsuit Thursday asking a judge to put a halt to the project. 

They don’t agree with the way this area was chosen and argue hiking, bird watching, camping, photography and other spiritual and recreational activities will be “irreparably injured.”

They call the Forest Service’s actions arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. 

The Forest Service says it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but did did say forest thinning is a vital part of keeping the forest healthy and providing a healthy habitat for wildlife. 

They say healthy forests have between 80 and 100 trees per acre. Many of our forests now have 500 to 1,000 trees per acre, most of which are fighting for water making them susceptible to disease and catastrophic fires. 

“We are trying to create a condition out there that when fire happens it’s not a big deal. It’s going to stay on the surface, on the ground, versus getting up laddering trees and taking out an entire watershed or mountainside,” Dennis Carril said. 

The Forest Service points to the Las Conchas Fire as a good example. They say that fire, which started in a previously thinned area, stayed small until it reached an un-thinned area. 

They say it then exploded in size and became one of the biggest fires in New Mexico state history at 156,000 acres. 

Forest officials also say they identify areas for thinning based on values at risk, such as watersheds or communities. 

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