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Help Protect the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Help Protect the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Doing Harm and Calling it Good


The massive Cones Fire Project allows the BLM to use chainsaws, fire and herbicides to “restore” the wild and wondrous Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in north central New Mexico. The result will likely be more than 100,000 acres of flattened and denuded wasteland. Comments are due September 5.

The important issues are:

  • The best available science shows that large scale removal of vegetation yields inconsistent and mixed results at best, and often does more harm than good, disturbing fragile soils, degrading native wildlife habitat, increasing invasive species and scarring wilderness quality landscapes.
  • Ignoring the advice of experts, the project will remove 90 percent of mature trees from crucial Pinyon Jay nesting habitat. The Pinyon Jay is a keystone species of the piñon-juniper woodlands whose regional population is in steep decline. Other woodland birds will also be harmed including Clark's Nutcracker, Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay, Mountain Chickadee, Juniper Titmouse and Black-throated Gray Warbler.
  • Contrary to their claims most studies show that wildlife habitat is not improved by the wholesale removal of woodlands and sagebrush. For example, removing vegetation often has an insignificant effect on the habitat of mule deer and elk.
  • The effects of spraying the herbicide tebuthiuron on over 10,000 acres is potentially devastating to biological crusts which stabilize highly erodible desert soils and provide essential nutrients to plants.
  • Nearly half the treated area is roadless wilderness. Trees and plant life will be cleared and sprayed with herbicides without considering the impacts to the wilderness character of this awe-inspiring landscape.
  • The Project is oblivious to the value of climate stabilizing woodlands. These woodlands are a storehouse of carbon and their destruction will release tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Please sign the letter below and press the submit button.

Mr. Kyle Sahd, Fire Management Specialist U.S. Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Taos Field Office
226 Cruz Alta Road
Taos, NM 87571
Protect the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Dear Mr. Sahd,

I demand that you prepare a comprehensive environmental impact statement for the massive Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Cones Fire Project that allows ample time for the public review, incorporates sound science and evaluates a range of reasonable alternatives.

The cursory assessment prepared to date acknowledges that nothing is known about the effects of applying the herbicide tebuthiuron to nearly 10,000 acres of sagebrush steppe that may contain soil stabilizing biological crusts. This uncertainty alone requires a detailed environmental review and heightened public scrutiny.

The effects of removing up to 97 percent of tree cover, that may include 40,000 acres of roadless lands eligible for Wilderness designation, violates the preservation mandate of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Native wildlife habitat will be permanently altered and fragmented, soil destabilized, opportunities for cheat grass invasion increased and the wilderness character of the area irreversibly harmed.

Over a dozen threatened birds species have been documented on the National Monument. Of particular concern is the ironic Piñon Jay, a BLM listed sensitive species, whose region-wide population is in steep decline. The Taos Field Office has a shameful history of destroying critical nesting Piñon Jay colonies in this area.

I respectfully request the disclosure and analysis of these impacts in a detailed environmental impact statement that incorporates sound science, evaluates a broad range of alternatives and is fully open to public review.

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Thanks for your Support!

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