Current efforts to thin forests to reduce fire danger are focused on New Mexico’s most at-risk areas, places where fire could cause the most danger to homes and community watersheds.
Ruidoso, in the Sacramento Mountains, is rated the most at-risk community in New Mexico, according to Forest Service spokeswoman Karen Carter.
The federal government has funded forest thinning, including commercial timber harvesting in collaboration with the Mescalero Apache Tribe, on more than 20,000 acres there. Commercial logs are handled by local mills and one in El Paso. A mill now under construction in Alamogordo will turn smaller logs into wood pellets for heating and energy production.
The Santa Fe watershed in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which provides drinking water to Santa Fe, also is at high risk. More than 5,000 acres were thinned, and much of that area now has been burned over in prescribed burns, according to Carter.
The two areas represent examples of what foresters call the “wildland-urban interface”, where human communities abut forest lands. Clearing those areas to make communities safer will make it easier to re-introduce natural fire, said Robert Berrens, a professor at the University of New Mexico.
— This article appeared on page A8 of the Albuquerque Journal