One size does not fit all
August 20, 2016, Santa Fe New Mexican
The Santa Fe County fireshed has been "created" as a bold blob on a map of the Santa Fe National Forest - without community input, ground-truthing, concern for wildlife and water, and with questionable science.
Part of the proposed fireshed lies in the watershed and along tributaries of the Pecos River. The proposed fireshed contains highly diverse terrain ranging from wildland urban interface areas, where careful thinning and burning treatments could be beneficial to communities, to high-elevation forests containing fragile wetlands, steep canyons and important wildlife habitat, such as Protected Activity Centers for Mexican spotted owls.
These higher elevation areas in the proposed fireshed also include Dalton Canyon and Dalton Creek, which support Rio Grande cutthroat trout, goshawk, eagles and a large variety of wildlife. The proposed fireshed also contains springs, streams and steep, sheltered canyons where thinning would create erosion and sedimentation, devastating the source of clean water for communities below as well as the Pecos watershed.
These high-elevation areas are far from communities and burn naturally on a regular basis. Spending our money to thin and burn them is not only a waste of public dollars, but the resulting roads and erosion will fragment wildlife habitat and damage water supplies. When it's gone, it's gone.
There are two inventoried roadless areas located in the proposed fireshed. In the upper elevations, the roadless area contains Thompson Peak, which rises to 10,545 feet, and La Cueva Canyon, where springs feed down into a perennial stream with a magnificent gorge and into the wells of the community below. The second roadless area contains Apache Canyon, where recreation, wildlife corridors and cultural sites are protected by its inventoried-roadless-area status.
These IRAs were designated under the 2001 Roadless Rule in order to protect and preserve our watersheds, wildlife and recreation. Scientists from all over the United States have urged President Barack Obama to maintain the protection of these roadless areas:
"Intact forests can serve as vital reservoirs and safety nets, as surrounding landscapes become genetically impoverished and fragmented, greatly impeding species' abilities to adapt to the increasing stress of global warming. Intact forests play an important role in the function of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems. They are spared the potentially massive soil erosion that can accompany road building and logging, which fouls streams and rivers."
President Obama has supported the Roadless Rule. Yet the group involved in creation of the proposed fireshed has ignored good science as well as the inventoried Roadless Rule. This is irresponsible. The forest stands in the east side of the proposed fireshed range from pinon-juniper through Ponderosa to spruce/fir at the 8,500-plus elevation. The terrain ranges from sloping to steep canyons. There are riparian areas - Dalton Creek, Wild Horse Canyon and La Cueva Creek - that nurture wildflowers, bears, eagles, goshawks and owls. There are large and 250-plus-year-old pinon and ponderosa. There are three main zones on the forest for the purposes of fire planning: wildland-urban interface areas, prescribed fire areas and wildland fire areas. All of these zones should be mapped and outlined within the Santa Fe County fireshed. The goal of the fireshed must be to carefully select thinning and fire treatment areas using the best available science to preserve water, wildlife and forest. Not to arbitrarily draw a blob on a map and lumber it.
Karyn Rose is a longtime resident of Glorieta who enjoys horseback riding, hiking, river rafting and the outdoors.