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Santa Fe County Commission Asks Forest Service To Update Procedures

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Kevin Meerschaert
/
KSFR-FM
The Santa Fe County Commission

The Santa Fe County Commission is urging the U.S. Forest Service to put a hold on all prescribed burns until it prepares a new Environmental Impact Statement. Commissioners want the USFS to take into account climate change and the economic impact of a fire on the county and city of Santa Fe. 

A resolution was introduced and passed Tuesday afternoon during the County Commission meeting. Commissioners Anna Hansen and Anna T. Hamilton introduced the resolution.

Hansen says she wants the Forest Service to interact with the community and listen to the scientists.

She said the recent report from the Service which still emphasizes burning to prevent more dangerous wildfires needs to be reevaluated.

“We want alternative methods. There are many other ways to make the forest safe and fire is not the only answer, ” she said. “We want a real discussion and that’s what the community wants.”    

Hamilton said the Forest Service used an out-of-date technical information before they started the prescribed burn that started the Calf Canyon Fire which is one of the reasons it jumped parameters and led to the largest wildfire in New Mexico history.

“It was an action plan that was published in 2019, it was never updated,” she said. “The risk profile for doing fires is very different now. I’m all for using all the tools in the tool box, but they need to use updated information to make appropriate risk decisions.”          

Commissioner Hank Hughes said if the rules had allowed more than two sponsors for a bill he would have gladly signed his name to it.

He said “we all saw the disaster with the current practices in the forest where other considerations besides safety were taken into account to start the prescribed burns that resulted in disasters on the east side” of the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire. 

The fire that began in April has burned nearly 535 square miles and now have seen constant threats of flash floods in the burn scar areas.  

The resolution encourages the USFS to prepare a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement for the Santa Fe National Forest.

It asks the Service to engage the public, respond to a full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts, examine alternatives, including preserving forests in their natural condition, and document unavoidable adverse effects prior to commencing any action.     

Kevin Meerschaert comes to Santa Fe from Jacksonville, Florida where he spent the past 20 years covering politics, government and pretty much everything else.