State lawmakers scramble to help New Mexicans unable to get woodcutting permits

New Mexico News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – On Wednesday, KRQE News 13 reported about the court order requiring the Forest Service to end all wood cutting in the state because of a fight over habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl. State lawmakers say their phones have been flooded with worried New Mexicans who have no way to heat their homes. They say this has turned into a state emergency.

Many New Mexicans cut their own wood during the winter and months leading up to it.

“A lot of residents of New Mexico and northern New Mexico count on firewood to heat homes, to cook; others count on supplemental income,” Rep. Joeseph Sanchez, (D) Alcalde, said.

But as of Monday, all woodcutting and thinning are on hold because of a lawsuit by the Wildearth Guardians against the Forest Service, claiming they haven’t done enough to study or protect the habitat of the Mexican Spotted Owl.

“It’s just devastating and I don’t think the people making these decisions are privy to information about little Mrs. Smith who hires someone to cut her wood and that’s the way she heats her home all winter,” Rep. Gail Armstrong, (R) Socorro, said.

State lawmakers are scrambling to find a solution.

“I’ve received endless calls since this announcement was made,” Rep. Rebecca Dow, (R) Truth or Consequences, said.

“I’ve heard from community leaders, it’s a huge concern,” Rep. Sanchez said.

Several are drafting letters asking the order be lifted. Without wood, they fear many people will go cold this winter.

“Several of us are shaking every tree that we can shake, contacting at Congressional level so they understand how devastating this is to rural, especially rural New Mexico,” Rep. Armstrong said.

In the meantime, they’re also looking for alternatives.

“If we can’t figure this out, if it’s going to be a longer issue to resolve, I would like the State Land Commissioner to open state land and maybe our State Forester oversee woodcutting. So many people rely on wood to heat homes, they don’t have another alternative,” Rep. Dow said.

Some who do have an alternative like propane simply can’t afford it. Lawmakers say it make come down to the state helping those in desperate need.

“We’ll have to talk to the governor about making some emergency funding available,” Rep. Sanchez said.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the governor’s office to see what her office is doing about this but did not hear back. One state lawmaker said this also happened back in the early ’90s and it devastated not only residents, but people who make a living cutting wood.

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