Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) are taking a carefully considered look at resuming the limited use of prescribed fire to reduce hazardous fuels, improve wildlife habitat, and create healthier, more resilient forest and watershed ecosystems.
A final decision on whether to proceed with a specific prescribed burn will depend on multiple conditions, including the national wildland fire preparedness level and resource availability, fuel moisture levels, air quality and forecasted weather. The SFNF will also take a risk-informed approach to managing prescribed fire during COVID-19.
Prescribed fire is part of a science-based framework for managing ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests like the SFNF to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire and allow low-intensity fire to play its natural role in a frequent-fire ecosystem. Each prescribed burn is designed to meet specific objectives and will be managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.
The SFNF will work with partners, collaborators and communities to clearly identify objectives and address concerns prior to implementing any prescribed burns. The projects under consideration between now and the end of December are:
· The 1,200-acre La Presa prescribed burn on Mesa de los Indios on the north end of the Coyote Ranger District.
· The 4,455-acre East Rowe Mesa prescribed burn approximately 10 miles south of Pecos on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District.
· The 350-acre Santa Fe Watershed prescribed burn north of Nichols Reservoir on the Española Ranger District.
· The 550-acre Pacheco Canyon prescribed burn north of Forest Road 102 and west of the previously treated block on the Española Ranger District, pending resolution of the current court-ordered injunction related to timber management and the Mexican spotted owl.
· The 250-acre Borrego Mesa prescribed burn near the Borrego Campground on the Española Ranger District.
The SFNF manages prescribed fires in compliance with New Mexico state regulations on air quality and smoke management. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures. Information on air quality and protecting your health can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) website. Information on the Forest Stewards Guild’s HEPA Filter Loan Program is available here.