Trust us, we know what we’re doing. That’s the message from the U.S. Forest Service.

The Forest Service intends to finalize the Santa Fe Mountains Landscape Resiliency Project decision within a few weeks, and hopes to start the project next month — despite intense public opposition to aggressive tree-cutting and prescribed burn treatments in our local forest. Forest Service officials have refused to do full analysis, an environmental impact statement, even through over 98% of public project scoping comments requested such analysis.

After the Forest Service ignited the 341,000-acre-plus Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire with two separate escaped prescribed burns, which burned out entire communities and severely damaged water quality and acequias, the public clamored for safeguards on prescribed burns. The Forest Service should have considered the potential for an escaped prescribed burn in the Santa Fe project analysis. They did so in the adjoining Gallinas Municipal Watershed Project analysis in 2005, when they called the potential for escaped prescribed burns one of three key project issues. Why, now that the climate is warmer and drier, does the Forest Service refuse to analyze the project’s potential for escaped prescribed burns and provide safety mitigations?

Sarah Hyden is the co-founder of The Forest Advocate, She lives by the Santa Fe National Forest.

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