Mistrust of Forest Service has been an obstacle - Albuquerque Journal

Mistrust of Forest Service has been an obstacle

Land grants are inextricably woven into the fabric of northern New Mexico, where heirs trace their lineage to the Spanish foot soldiers, Indigenous cautivos (slaves), people of mixed descent and Pueblo peoples who settled the edges of a colonial empire.

The forests saw a lot in the intervening years, including ongoing protests over how the U.S. Forest Service exercised its power. Tensions rose so high that armed dissidents stormed the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse in 1966, an incident that so surprised the USFS that the agency launched a study to investigate.

“The hard facts are that many of the villagers’ understanding of Forest Service management objectives, regulations, and policies is harshly at odds with their own concept of how things should be,” the report concluded. Mistrust, it went on, was the greatest obstacle.

Critics today still see the agency’s relationship with locals as shaky and, like the forest, in need of mending.

“Unhealthy forests look like the USFS almost everywhere,” said Joaquin Arguello, a vocal proponent of collaborative forest thinning initiatives, alongside his father, David Arguello.

 

David is a member of the Cerro Negro Forest Council, which manages a community thinning project in the Carson National Forest that is based on the tenets of acequia stewardship. Until there is more community forestry, Joaquin argued, “it all looks unhealthy because there is no bond with the land.”

Santa Fe National Forest has made progress along these lines, including recent efforts like the Southwest Jemez Mountains Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project and a similar project in the Rio Chama area. But the region where the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire has been most destructive hasn’t seen thinning on a large enough scale, in part because of USFS budget cuts, experts said.

Thinning wouldn’t necessarily stop a fire from starting or spreading, said Matthew Hurteau, professor of ecology at University of New Mexico – especially with 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts, drought, climate change and lack of snowpack. But if practiced full throttle, it could lessen the fire’s most devastating impacts.

Given all the troubles, one local USFS employee predicted 10 years ago that a major conflagration would occur in the area where fires have now been on a two-month rampage.

“It’s not if, but when we get a large wildfire in the Gallinas canyon,” Steve Romero, U.S. Forest Service ranger for the Pecos/Las Vegas district, said in 2012, on a tour of the Gallinas watershed.

“We anticipate it could be catastrophic.”


Alicia Inez Guzmán, Searchlight New Mexico

 

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Mistrust of Forest Service has been an obstacle


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Tesla announces second New Mexico dealership
ABQnews Seeker
The new location will be located ... The new location will be located near Albuquerque on land belonging to ....
2
Special Shape Rodeo features 120 hot air balloons
ABQnews Seeker
An event where dinosaurs mingle with ... An event where dinosaurs mingle with Star Wars heroes
3
Delivering hope and friendship
ABQnews Seeker
'Pandemic Pizza Man' looks to inspire ... 'Pandemic Pizza Man' looks to inspire others
4
Vara releases two new sparkling wines
ABQnews Seeker
Vara Winery & Distillery has released ... Vara Winery & Distillery has released Silverhead Brut NV ($25) and Silverhead Brut Rosado NV ($27).
5
Lainey Wilson to hit the stage at the 2022 ...
ABQnews Seeker
Lainey Wilson will perform in Albuquerque ... Lainey Wilson will perform in Albuquerque at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, during Music Fiesta at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
6
Lobo hoops notebook: TV games announced, some dates changed
ABQnews Seeker
Every conference game to be on ... Every conference game to be on TV
7
Happy landing as 'baby bee' is reunited with parents
ABQnews Seeker
'The bee is safe,' police chief ... 'The bee is safe,' police chief declares, attributing the quick recovery to ‘old-fashioned detective work’
8
Pence visits NM to campaign with Ronchetti
2022 election
GOP heavyweights weighing in on the ... GOP heavyweights weighing in on the race
9
Bernalillo County birds test positive for avian flu
ABQnews Seeker
This is the first confirmed positive ... This is the first confirmed positive test for the disease this year