New Mexico is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, including our beautiful forests and woodlands. Flitting about the trees are birds only found in a few states, including New Mexico. Native birds fill our mountains with song, as well as maintain the health of our wooded areas; they are precious jewels. Tragically, birds such as the pinyon jay, Grace’s warbler, Virginia’s warbler and red-faced warbler are in trouble.

Defenders of Wildlife works to conserve these vulnerable species through collaborative work with landowners to incorporate bird needs into forest and woodland management plans. In Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Mountains Landscape Resiliency Project offers an opportunity for the U.S. Forest Service to help forest-dependent birds. The management of our national forests should take into consideration more than just fire risk but consider other values as well.

Because of previous land use and historical fire suppression, some forests contain abnormally high fuel loads. Defenders supports some intervention to modify fire behavior, including light thinning and controlled burning, with an important caveat: For imperiled birds, as well as many other sensitive wildlife, competing needs must be balanced.

Peggy Darr is the New Mexico representative for Defenders of Wildlife. Darr is is a wildlife biologist with expertise in ornithology, endangered species conservation and ecological restoration.

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