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Know the West

The Forest Service cares in New Mexico

  Dear HCN:

Many different voices have been raised in northern New Mexico of late. While Sam Hitt expressed his opinion in "Green Hate" (HCN, 2/3/97), typical of what we heard and received is the letter sent by Tim Mylet, who had earlier presented a petition with 250 signatures to us expressing frustration over firewood restrictions. In his most recent letter he again notes the dependence local families have on wood and thanks the Forest Service for responsiveness to the situation. He too, is troubled by the divisive atmosphere that pervades the region.

The recent firewood fracas began because of restrictions Mr. Hitt and other plaintiffs insisted on in a settlement agreement, as a result of a lawsuit. We cautioned the plaintiffs as to the implications. As a result of these new restrictions, I was forced to send a letter to some 5,000 firewood permit holders advising them of the changes to their permits. At this point, people such as Mr. Mylet began to express their concerns. Interestingly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had conducted a field review of our firewood program a month prior and issued a report stating that we were not adversely affecting the habitat of the Mexican spotted owl.

In Mr. Hitt's opinion piece, he speaks of spiraling demand, snag densities far below guidelines and makes other statements we cannot confirm. We see demand as relatively flat over the past decade as, presumably, more people have sought alternative heating sources such as gas and solar. As far as snag densities are concerned, again, our data do not show the deficiencies he noted.

More troubling is the implication that rural Hispanic community residents, many with roots through four centuries, do not care or are not capable of concern for the long-term health of the forest. As a native northern New Mexican, and in my experience in talking with residents, I find this to be simply incorrect.

Our wish is for dialogue and collaboration to improve the long-term health of the forest as well as our rural communities. In northern New Mexico, that is our mission.

Leonard Lucero

Taos, New Mexico

Leonard Lucero is supervisor of the Carson National Forest.