This past month, about nine square miles were burned in Santa Fe National Forest by prescribed burns (550 acres Pacheco, 4,300 acres Rowe Mesa, 997 acres Cuba). It is appropriate to ask for a pause in the continuation of these projects without a complete environmental impact statement. Success is relative. We have COVID-19. We have climate. We have stress. We have drought, and we will eventually have fires. Our loss of diversity is turning on us. Let us creatively save what we have. Let us question authority.

Emmy Koponen

Santa Fe

A minor miracle

On Friday, the watershed for Las Vegas, N.M., faced a serious challenge and came through unscathed.

On a day with 60 mph wind gusts, the Peterson Fire started in Gallinas Canyon. The multiple agencies that responded performed a minor miracle and stopped the fire at 30 acres. The aggressive attack reflects how serious a fire in any New Mexico canyon can be, but a multiyear group effort underpinned this success. Land owners and funding agencies working in the canyon know that removing excess small trees keeps fires small. Thinned forests around the city reservoir and the adjacent Las Vegas Land Grant meant this area could burn without burning up and nearby thinning on private property meant the firefighters had options. Those of us who live in Las Vegas owe all involved, from those who fought flames on Friday to those who found funding five years ago, a big thanks.

Kent Reid

director, N.M. Forest and Watershed

Restoration Institute

Las Vegas, N.M.

Yes, planning

As a former member of the planning commission, and fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, I am encouraged about the city’s contracting for a growth management study and cleaning up our land use codes (“Mayor seeks to study Santa Fe’s long-term growth plans,” April 24). I would also recommend the administration and City Council reallocate staff resources for in-house long-range planning. However, I advise against an incremental approach on the comprehensive plan, last updated in 1999.

It is precisely during uncertain times such as these that long-range comprehensive planning is most important. A new comprehensive plan requires the community coming together in an inclusive and transparent effort to envision our future, and establishes goals and policies that will guide our choices about leveraging our limited resources for the most benefit. The result is a plan that integrates land use, housing, transportation, equitable economic development, utilities, recreation, historic and cultural preservation, and sustainability while aligning with our values.

Daniel Pava

Santa Fe

Shine a light

We would like to offer our sincere appreciation for your editorial (“Governing requires plenty of light,” Our View, April 23) regarding the secretive process that the city was using to select the toxic LED streetlights. We take pride in being the author of some of the “aggressive” correspondence with the city because we now see the changes that they have been forced to make with their process. Thank you for your opinion that just because people are vocal does not mean that the city can use this as an excuse to hide behind anonymity.

Mark Baker

Soft Lights

Santa Fe

Too many broken lights

I’ve been reading all the comments regarding the brightness of the new street lights. I live in a neighborhood that has no streetlights, and it is nice to be able to see the stars. However, as I was traveling on N.M. 599, I noticed several lights out near the South Meadows intersection. Because of the pandemic, I haven’t traveled that route as often as usual. The same lights were out the last time I traveled that route, and that was about a year ago. It would be nice to have the bulbs working where we do have streetlights because there is a reason those lights are there.

Billie Koller

Santa Fe

(6) comments

Emmy Koponen

I worked for the Forest service in Idaho as a timber wad, aka timber cruiser. We all had to go on fire duty when the bell sounded. The network of logging and roads was never ending.

It was Aldo Leopoldo who suspected that the light burning was brought more fires.

Ok 2021. NM is slated to burn 325,000 acres this year. Does that make sense?

Alternatives must be addressed. Dead trees have incredible value. Our forest is irreplaceable. Perhaps man will go extinct and take so much life along with us. Wildfires at least travel fast and do not smolder.

Right that they cannot be put,out , by man.

Our existing forests with bugs and drought are at least still there giving shade and habitat and life.

Let us weigh the consequences in a public hearing. It is called for now.

Tom Ribe

Fire is a natural, frequent occurrence in Southwest forests. If agencies don't do prescribed fires when conditions are right, we will have extreme wildfires when conditions are dry and windy. In fact we cannot control such wildfires. The Forest Service could do far more prescribed fire and can allow wildfires that ignite in the right conditions to burn to enhance wildlife habitat, improve the diversity of plant life, and make forests resilient to future wildfire. None of this is optional.

Sarah Hyden

Yes, fire is a natural occurrence in Southwestern forests. You are right that we cannot control such wildfires. There is no real evidence that prescribed fires and thinning treatments prevent or sufficiently moderate the behavior of wildfire enough to avoid "extreme" (very high intensity) wildfires. There is evidence that forests that have been protected from fuel treatments burn less frequently and less severely.

https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecs2.1492

Residents in the Las Conchas fire area have described the fire burning right through fuel treated areas. Fuel treatments do not work well for very high intensity fires, the type of fire forest managers are concerned about.

Before any treatments commence there needs to be a thorough and sincere cost/benefit analysis done, taking into account a broad range of the best available science. That has not yet been done. An Environmental Impact Statement is the appropriate way to do the cost/benefit analysis. Why is the USFS so resistant to doing one, when nearly all of the Santa Fe Mountains Project scoping comments urged them to do so, and it's clear the impacts will be substantial?

Why just reiterate a one-sided view about fuel treatments that does not take into the full cost/benefit analysis?

These treatments do not appear to increase diversity. Take a look at the Santa Fe watershed thinning from a few decades back above Black Canyon. There is not diversity. It's mostly just a few scraggily ponderosas, and open and barren spaces in-between, with a little grass. The understory has never been allowed to return. Prescribed fire is applied too frequently for it to ever return. How can that reasonably be called diversity?

Citizens have been bitterly complaining about the effects of so many prescribed burns on their health, and with the two very large projects proposed for the Santa Fe National Forest, it will only increase. Why not take their concerns and their health seriously into account with a genuine cost/benefit analysis? Based on all the complaints, the AQI is clearly not sufficient predictor of the impacts of the smoke on public health. Medical research supports this.

https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1409111

Why not take in prescribed burn health impact reports and include that as part of the cost/benefit analysis?

The public is likely not to stand for being treated like this, or having our cherished forest treated like this. The Forest Service needs to take the people they serve, and the forest they are charged to protect, much more seriously.

Richard Reinders

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Emmy Koponen

Tom Ribe with the beginning of light burning in the early twentieth century questions were already brought up that perhaps those burns intensified the natural wildfires. With the millions of forest roads made for prescribed burns along with the existing logging networks in Our forests we must pause. Mega thinnings created in the predominantly over the last ten years have grown considerably. Does it make sense to destroy the existing systems when we are dealing with collapse of our civilization which depends on the web of life?

Why has the Forest Service and the Fireshed not looked into alternatives during this Covid break? Should not the very places to be protected be protected at the source and not miles away in the forest? It appears akin to putting sand bags miles out in the ocean to slow a tsunami which might or might not occur. Fire fighters should not be fire starters or fire encouragers as in managed fires.

The problem with the burns is that they invite more burns and sparks do travel. I had ponderosa bark land in my field twenty air miles from the escaped prescribed burn in Los Alamos. I would just like to see restoration in the name of life giving not life taking.

Richard Reinders

The alternative is much much worse, as stated before you only need to look at California as a model of what happens when you don't maintain forest, or even Yellowstone fire that burned almost a million acres before it stopped. I just personally experienced a Bosque fire on my property that burned 50 acres in a couple hours out of control until it got to my and my neighbors property where we had cleaned the Bosque and that is where they were able to stop it because we didn't have ladder fuels and had everything in manageable burn piles. I lived in Colorado and went through many out of control fires west of Denver in the mountains and saw first hand where thinning saved the trees and the fire went around those areas. So I have seen first hand on more than one occasion that thinning works.

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