Watershed managers in northern New Mexico are mounting a pre-emptive strike this spring with a forest-thinning project that aims to reduce wildfire risk.
the Forest Service began a thinning project in the Santa Fe
National Forest, which surrounds the city’s municipal water
supply. The Santa Fe Watershed Association, a local grassroots
group, secured $430,000 through Clean Water Act “Section
319” grants for the project.
Protection Agency (EPA) distributes Section 319 money for
water-quality projects, such as fencing cows out of streams and
planting trees along streambeds. New Mexico has used this money for
thinning and prescribed burning over the past five years, and Tim
Herfel of the EPA calls the use of funds
But Bryan Bird of the National
Forest Protection Alliance, a network of activists that opposes
commercial logging on public lands, says the use of Clean Water Act
funds for the project is suspect. Heavy equipment use, new skid
trails and piles of logging debris could all increase both fire
risk and water pollution, he says.
Former Forest Service
advisor Chris Wood, who now works for Trout Unlimited, says more
appropriate funding is available for reducing fuel loads in the
woods, and he questions the benefits of thinning vs. leaving the
forest alone. Says Wood: “You’d hope the treatment
would be restorative (rather) than