We must tend, not neglect, forests - Albuquerque Journal

We must tend, not neglect, forests

Recently, KOB ran a news article titled, “105-year-old woman loses her home in the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire.” Mariquita Gallegos, mother to 17 children and a lifelong resident of the area, has already lost two homes to wildfires. Now, she is living with family in Los Lunas and celebrating 105 years of life, even as her material possessions have been reduced to ash.

Mariquita is not alone, and unfortunately even Valencia County is no stranger to wildfire. Just a few weeks ago, the Bosque fire torched homes just blocks from my own, and as tragic as it was, it paled in comparison to the wildfires now consuming our state. Last week it was announced the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peaks Fire is now New Mexico’s largest wildfire in modern history, having burned more than 300,000 acres of our precious land. People have lost homes, animals and other precious possessions, and the governor has estimated over 1,000 homes may be destroyed. Meanwhile, our firefighters and other first responders are putting their lives on the line and working around the clock to mitigate the impact of this colossal blaze.

How could we let this happen? This is a question I often receive. While the governor and federal officials are quick to blame the winds, dry climate and lack of rain, we cannot however ignore the fact the Hermits Peak fire was caused by a government-prescribed burn and fueled by perennial neglect.

For decades, radical environmentalists have harped about a looming world destruction while preaching the gospel of land preservation. In many cases, they have achieved their goals. Over the years, more and more New Mexico land that was previously tended to by farmers and ranchers with a vested interest in keeping it rich and plentiful has been handed over to the government. In turn, those lands have been largely neglected. A lack of management, including proper forest thinning and watershed restoration, have resulted in piled-up fuel and overcrowded forests. As we have witnessed, all it takes is one spark to devastate thousands of lives and scar the landscape for generations.

As for air quality and the climate, extremely high amounts of CO2 are being generated and emitted into our atmosphere every day from the wildfires. The next time the eco-left pushes its radical climate-change legislation, we should all remind them how their mismanagement and neglect of our land is causing more emission problems than the gas-fueled vehicles they want us to abandon. In 2020, for example, the California wildfires were estimated to have emitted more carbon into the atmosphere than 24 million cars.

If we want to address New Mexico’s wildfire threats, we have to stop taking cues from California and start managing the land. Let grazers keep the overgrowth down. Let loggers responsibly clear the overgrown forests. End senseless policies like controlled burns during the windy season. Conserve and steward the land, instead of preserving and neglecting it.

If you agree, do not simply nod your head. Call the governor, your state legislators and our congressional delegation and demand they end the cycle of burning and despair in our state. It is time we get serious about forest management before there are no forests left to manage.

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