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Forests, bosque reopening after monsoon rains

Recent rains prompted Cibola National Forest officials to reopen the Sandia Ranger District. That allowed Lluvia Hernandez of Albuquerque to visit Sandia Crest with her kids. (roberto e. rosales/journal)
Recent rains prompted Cibola National Forest officials to reopen the Sandia Ranger District. That allowed Lluvia Hernandez of Albuquerque to visit Sandia Crest with her kids. (roberto e. rosales/journal)
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Good news for Albuquerque hikers – many of the nearby forest and bosque areas that were closed last week are reopening.

Timely rainfall and the expectation of more have prompted officials in two New Mexico national forests, and Bernalillo County, to lift many fire restrictions imposed just before the July Fourth holiday.

The Sandia Ranger District in the Cibola National Forest, which covers parts of the Sandia and Manzano mountains and was closed June 30 because of dry conditions and anticipated hot weather, was reopened Monday by Forest Supervisor Elaine Kohrman.

“The Sandias have recently received a lot of rain, which has increased the moisture levels in the vegetation to the point where it should limit the spread of any human or natural-caused wildfires,” Kohrman said in a news release. “In addition, the long-range weather forecast is predicting more rain for the area, which is a good indicator that the monsoon season has arrived.”

Chris Luckett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Monday that the village of Tijeras, which sits between the mountain ranges, received an average of 1.66 inches of rain between June 30 and noon Monday, based on two rain collection sites.

Weather forecasters say more moisture is moving into the area, which will improve the chances of afternoon and evening thunderstorms throughout the coming week.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson said Monday that the county’s East Mountain open space properties – the Ojito de San Antonio, Sandia Knolls, Sedillo Ridge and Sabino Canyon areas – will reopen today. The areas, as well as the county’s fire-prone bosque, were closed June 30 because of the high fire danger.

The bosque in Corrales will likely reopen Wednesday, said Tom Thorpe with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.

Farther south, the Cibola’s Mountainair Ranger District remains closed, said fire information officer Arlene Perea.

“We haven’t gotten the moisture the Sandias have, so we remain closed for now,” Perea said Monday afternoon.

Forest officials will continue monitoring the district’s moisture levels, she said, and if sufficient rainfall is received, the district will likely reopen.

The Associated Press reported that the Gila National Forest in southern New Mexico will be lifting its fire restrictions today. That means forest visitors will be able to have campfires again in undeveloped areas across the forest.

Gila National Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell is still urging visitors to ensure their campfires are cold to the touch before leaving their camp or retiring for the night. Unextinguished campfires are one of the main ways fires get started, forest officials said.

Lincoln National Forest officials said restrictions there will be lifted Wednesday morning.

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