ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – A new project to help improve the Lincoln National Forest is underway. The project will improve almost 20% of the Smokey Bear Ranger District, which is about 90,750 acres of forest.

This historic before and after photo shows the encroachment of piñon/juniper trees. (courtesy LNF)

The Lincoln National Forest reports that it is one of the largest projects to be developed by the forest and planning and environmental assessment took one and a half years. The project focuses on the northern section of the Smokey Bear Ranger District near Carrizozo, White Oaks, and Ancho.

Some of the activities that will take place include habitat restoration including the thinning of piñon and juniper as many open spaces are overgrown with the trees. Forest officials say the dense forests stifle the growth of other important plants like wildflowers and grasses.

The projects will also ensure to retain healthy growth trees in order to create a landscape that is varied and has open spaces, edge habitat, and hiding cover. This will help to create conditions that increase grass and wildflower production, species diversity, tree health, and also improves resilience to drought, insects, and disease.

Forest Service staff are planning to use tools such as prescribed fire, mechanical thinning, hand thinning, and other methods to help improve the forest’s health. In addition to these improvements, forest officials will also repair existing roads, make range improvements to help distribute wildlife and livestock, and take part in watershed restoration practices.

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