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Forest Restoration Challenged in New Mexico

WildEarth Guardians Asserts Road Construction Excessively Harmful to Water and Wildlife

Albuquerque, NM - WildEarth Guardians lodged a formal objection to a precedent-setting forest restoration plan in northern New Mexico. In October, the Santa Fe National Forest finalized plans to commence forest restoration activities on 170 mi2 in the Jemez Mountains. The objection charges some of the activities would cause more harm than good, 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 Southwest Jemez Mountains Landscape Restoration Project includes logging, prescribed fire and other activities to address watershed conditions. While WildEarth Guardians supports limited tree cutting and prescribed burning, the construction and reconstruction of roads will result in persistent impacts on water quality that are unacceptable. The plan includes 30,000 acres - nearly 47 mi2 - of logging and thinning.  A genuine restoration plan should minimize impacts on soil and water and emphasize stream restoration and beaver reestablishment. The Forest Service lists activities that impact soils and water quality as domestic livestock grazing, tree harvesting, off-road vehicle use and roads.

“Its unfortunate the Forest Service in the end chose the most extreme intervention,” said Bird. “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.”

The Southwest Jemez Mountains Landscape Restoration is touted as a collaborative effort of multiple federal, state, non-governmental organizations and tribal agencies responding to climate change in the Jemez Mountains. The project receives up to $4 million per year in federal funds as a result of an award from the 2000 Community Forest Restoration Act in New Mexico (Title VI, Public Law 106-393).

The project area has 113 miles of perennial and 394 miles of intermittent streams that serve as a source of drinking water, wildlife habitat, agricultural water and are tributaries to the Rio Grande. Many of the streams are listed as impaired by the state of New Mexico.  The project area also includes habitat for several species protected by the Endangered Species Act including the Mexican spotted owl, Jemez Mountains salamander and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.


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