New Mexico Forestry Division unveils 10-year plan for wildfires, restoration

Wildfires

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The fire season is set to begin and while New Mexico’s Forestry Division is doing what they can to prepare for this, they are also creating plans to help our forests over the next 10 years. The division has plenty of plans in place for the next decade and one of the things top of mind: managing devastating wildfires.

“We are very concerned about this year’s fire season and have taken extra steps to make sure that we are well-staffed,” said Laura McCarthy, State Forester. “We urge the public to be extra careful with fire, whether you’re ditch-burning — there’s a lot of that going on right now — and people need to pay attention to the red flag warnings.”

In the state’s new 10-year Forest Action Plan, some of these methods include controlled or prescribed burning. They’re also working with utility companies to reduce fire fuel like dead brush near power lines.

“We have so many trees now that one of our key strategies is reducing the fuel loads to those levels where fire can play its natural role without threatening our communities or our water supplies,” said McCarthy. “The legislature passed a bill this session, New Mexico’s Prescribed Burning Act, that helps us work with private landowners that want to have prescribed fire on their lands.”

The plan is also to boost forest restoration at 10 times what it’s currently at — not only in areas destroyed by wildfires but those impacted by bark beetles that quickly kill live trees, particularly in the Sandia, Sacramento, and the Manzano Mountains, and the Sangre de Cristo range. They’re also focusing on the areas with high fire risk that supply water for locals and serve as wildlife habitats.

“We identified 10 priority landscapes for our future focus. It doesn’t mean we won’t work in other places, but these 10 areas are especially important,” said McCarthy, noting the landscapes include the Zuni and East Mountains districts of Cibola National Forest and the Enchanted Circle part of Carson National Forest.

The overall Forest Action Plan has 10 main strategies they want to narrow in on over the next decade. They include: restoring forests and watersheds, fire management, private land stewardship, utility rights of way, rare plants, reforestation, urban forests and communities, restoration economy, land conservation, and outdoor recreation.

“It’s exciting to have a blueprint for how to move forward,” said McCarthy. “It’s very important that we just not be a plan on the shelf but that we work together to get these actions done and report back to the public, every year, what we’ve accomplished.”

In the plan, the Forestry Division also identified legacy areas of focus throughout the state including Chama Forest, Cimarron Forest, Las Vegas Forest, Bernalillo Forest, Socorro Forest, and Capitan Forest. They say one of the big factors threatening most of these legacy areas is developments encroaching on forests.

For more information, visit emnrd.state.nm.us/SFD/.

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