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Proactive forest treatments needed

As summer temperatures rise, a lot of us are heading outside. In many New Mexico communities, the urge to enjoy nature also means welcome dollars as visitors spend time in our beautiful forests.

However, warmer weather and the ongoing severe drought have every level of government bracing for another big fire season. Much of New Mexico is projected to be at higher fire risk for the next two months by the National Interagency Fire Center.

Unfortunately, this forecast comes as Washington is proposing to severely cut 2014 programs that pro-actively reduce the risk of megafires through thinning and controlled burns. These job-creating treatments reduce hazardous fuels more safely and cheaply than fighting fires reactively. And as we learned from the Las Conchas fire in 2011, a megafire followed by monsoon rains means debris flows and ash in the Rio Grande, our critical summer water supply.

More cuts will create a hazardous path. Hazardous fuels budgets for the National Forest Service in New Mexico were reduced 59 percent in 2012 compared to the previous three years. For the Department of the Interior agencies, the cuts were even deeper. One effect is to leave Pueblos without funds to reduce fuels on tribal land.

Instead of passively waiting for fires to dictate the terms to us, we need to ask Washington now to invest in safer and cheaper proactive forest treatments through the Hazardous Fuels program.


Director, The Nature

Conservancy in New Mexico

Protect Columbine Hondo wilderness

As the president of the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire, I commend Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich along with Congressman Ben Ray Lujan for introducing legislation to permanently protect the Columbine Hondo as a wilderness area.

I am a retired U.S. Army officer and Vietnam Veteran and I established the nonprofit foundation in 2009 to treat veteran couples with PTSD. To date we have successfully helped 175 couples with our seven-day retreats.

Nature and its inherent therapeutic benefits are integral to all of the retreats. The beauty and serenity of the wilderness provides a natural setting offering a sense of well-being and connectedness to the participants and staff. Participants are out in nature in an environment that becomes an integral part of the therapeutic recreational experience.

Ask many veterans who have returned from a military assignment and the first place they want to go is to the wilderness to relax and get away “from it all.”

Permanent protection of a large portion of the alpine tundra in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains will truly benefit all veterans in northern New Mexico, throughout the state and southwest, particularly for the number of National Guard soldiers that reside in the state and have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo multiple times.

On behalf of all veterans, the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center fully supports the permanent protection of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Area and thanks our congressional delegation for their efforts in this important endeavor.


President, National

Veterans Wellness and

Healing Center

Angel Fire

It’s about unions, not education

It seems to be apparent that when Hanna Skandera’s detractors claim she is unqualified — she has no teaching experience — what they mean is that she has no union experience, and that scares them to death.

Let’s face it: it’s all about the unions and not about education. We like our auto mechanics to be certified, voluntarily I might add, but our teachers? Oh no, they have a job for life no matter how poorly they perform. We in the business community are all too aware of applicants that are functionally illiterate, but they have a diploma.


Santa Fe