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Editorial: Those trees belong to everybody

Illegally cut trees have been found in the Santa Fe National Forest down from the Raven’s Ridge area above the Santa Fe ski basin. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Illegally cut trees have been found in the Santa Fe National Forest down from the Raven’s Ridge area above the Santa Fe ski basin. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

You would think that people who enjoy schussing down slopes of virgin snow would be great lovers of the outdoors and wilderness areas.

But to judge by damage left behind by what many suspect were rogue skiers, some skiers apparently want to make the mountainsides their own.

Santa Fe National Forest officials report that at least a thousand trees have been chopped down, or their lower branches cleared off, in areas along Raven’s Ridge down to the Pecos Wilderness and to Ski Santa Fe. The goal? Apparently to clear off nice runs through the trees, not easily visible, but available to those who happen to know they’re there.

About a dozen trails have been cut, some as long as a half-mile and as wide as 40 feet, according to Mike Gardiner, the forest’s assistant special agent in charge of law enforcement.

But many wonder why such a step would be taken when there is clearly good skiing, including through trees, nearby on legal runs. Besides, forest officials say, by someone taking forest “management” into their own hands, they could increase fire risk from the cut trees and branches when they dry; increase the attraction for bark beetles and other pests that dine on such forest clutter; increase erosion along the cleared areas during a heavy rain storm; and decrease habitat for birds and other critters.

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“It is a complete disregard to our public lands,” said Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Nobody should be doing this for their own selfish uses.”

We agree, and would underline the word “selfish.”

One could argue that since public lands are, well, public, then we should all be able to do what we want with them. Bull. The reason there are agencies set up to administer our public lands is to balance the interests of all of the public, and to protect the lands so that they will be intact and beautiful for future generations. There’s no room for a small group of recreational users to take over some portion of those lands.

We urge anyone with tips that could lead to apprehension of the tree-choppers to contact U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations at 505-842-3363. The law-breakers could face up to six months in jail and fines as high as $6,000.


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