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State Land Commissioner Urges Safety to Prevent Wildfires

$2.4 Million set aside for watershed health protection projects

By State Land Commissioner 

SANTA FE, NM  (April 17, 2018) — A moderate La Niña weather system last winter and persistent drought like conditions this spring have created prime conditions for an above average wildfire season in New Mexico.

With temperatures on the rise and wind and thunderstorms forecast for this weekend, State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is urging the public, hunters and trust land lessees to be extra vigilant and not have any open flames in public.

“It only takes one careless spark to ignite a wildfire that could put lives, property and watersheds at risk,” said Dunn.

Since March 8, more than 60,000 acres, — including 15,000 acres of State Trust Lands in Cibola, Lincoln, Lea, and Union counties —have been involved in wildfires.

Nearly all wildfires are caused by people, through accidents, carelessness, negligence and even arson. Reducing those risks is especially critical at this time of year when weather conditions and other factors can increase wildfire risk.

To reduce the risk of accidental wildfires, Dunn recommends avoiding anything with the potential to ignite a spark. For example, ensure chainsaws have a spark arrestor, trailer chains are not dragging, cigarettes are extinguished, and vehicles are not parked or driven through vegetation such as tall grass.

Wildfire Prevention and Safety Tips:

  • Use ashtrays in vehicles and don’t discard cigarettes, matches and smoking materials on the ground.
  • Obtain required permits for campfires from your nearest Forest Service field office. Don’t leave fires unattended and douse them completely.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach your kids about fire safety.
  • Protect structures from wildfire damage by creating space of at least 30 feet between homes and flammable vegetation in forested or wooded areas, and 100 feet from homes in the Pinelands region. These buffers should be free from vegetation that will burn easily, such as fallen leaves, pine needles, twigs and branches. Make sure firetrucks can access driveways.
  • Report suspicious vehicles and individuals to authorities.
  • Use wood stoves and fireplaces carefully, since both can emit embers that spark fires. Fully douse ashes with water before disposal.

Millions set aside for habitat improvement projects

Under Dunn’s leadership, the New Mexico State Land Office has taken the lead in forest thinning and remediation projects, which reduce the risk of catastrophic fires sparked by lightning strikes,

In fiscal year 2016, 4,416 acres of State Trust Lands remediated at a cost of nearly $750,000.  This fiscal year, Commissioner Dunn authorized restoration and remediation projects in 17 counties, which are projected to cost upwards of $2.166 million.

 “I’ve budgeted $2.4 million for additional restoration and remediation projects on  4465 acres of trust lands in six counties in order to improve the overall watershed health,” Dunn said. “I’ve also decided to scrap plans for a 6,000-acre prescribed burn in Ortiz Canyon in the Luera Mountains south of Magdalena.”

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