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WildEarth Guardians challenges forest restoration plan in Jemez Mountains

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians environmental group has lodged a formal objection to a forest restoration plan in northern New Mexico for forest restoration activities on 170 square miles of the Santa Fe National Forest in the Jemez Mountains.

WildEarth Gaurdians said it objects in particular construction and reconstruction of 120 miles of road to access timber.

“WildEarth Guardians worked with the Santa Fe National Forests and other collaborators for over five years to develop a good restoration project,” said Bryan Bird, an ecologist with WildEarth Guardians. “In the end, however, the Forest Service chose the ‘bull in the china shop’ approach. There will be more harm done than good.”

The Forest Service’s Southwest Jemez Mountains Landscape Restoration Project includes logging, prescribed fire and other activities to address watershed conditions and prevent wildfire, WildEarth Guardians said.

WildEarth Guardians says it supports limited tree cutting and prescribed burning, but that the construction and reconstruction of roads “will result in persistent impacts on water quality that are unacceptable.” The plan includes 30,000 acres of logging and thinning, the group said. “We had agreement around some beneficial activities including road decommissioning, stream restoration and beaver reestablishment. But the Forest Service still wants to log our fragile forests,” said Byrd.

Santa Fe National Forest supervisor Maria T. Garcia has said the project plan is based on the best available science and reflects public comments received during scoping and formal comment periods.