Recently, I have seen and heard a lot of rhetoric about the management of the Lincoln National Forest in Southern New Mexico. While it isn’t unusual for people to publicly express their dissatisfaction about some facet of our management, the information and publicity surrounding the tree-cutting event on Sept. 17 near Cloudcroft was troubling because it so blatantly distorted the facts.
I am proud of the work being done by employees of the Lincoln National Forest in partnership with individuals, organizations and local governments. Tremendous work has been done to reduce the fire hazard near communities and restore the health and resiliency of the forest.
Over 570,000 acres have been treated on the Lincoln National Forest in the past 30 years, ranging from timber sales to mechanical thinning to prescribed fire. These treatments have created wildlife openings, seeding, and watershed and rangeland improvements. Over the past decade, the Lincoln shifted its focus to national forest lands within the wildland-urban interface as identified and prioritized through community wildfire protection plans. In this 10-year time frame, the Lincoln treated over 421,000 acres compared to 159,805 acres treated in the previous 20 years.
This threefold increase demonstrates our agency’s commitment to helping protect communities from wildfire. On the Sacramento Ranger District, over 121,000 acres of treatment have occurred in the past 10 years. Specifically, of the 1,800 acres of National Forest System land within a 1/2-mile buffer of the Village of Cloudcroft, 59 percent has been treated.
Such treatments will continue with the aim of protecting communities from wildfire and improving forest health, resiliency and ecological function. In fact, our collaboration on the proposed Southern Sacramento Mountains Restoration Project through the Otero County Working Group is a prime example of how close collaboration can lead to an outstanding project with widespread ecological, recreational and economic benefit. This project proposes to restore forest health, reduce fire hazard, and support local economies on nearly 300,000 acres across Forest Service, state and private lands within the Lincoln National Forest boundary.
Management of public lands requires involvement of us all. I and the employees of the Lincoln National Forest are fully committed to working collaboratively with all of the counties and local governments in the management of the Lincoln National Forest. I believe we share a common vision for the health and resiliency of the Lincoln while providing for sustainable economic vitality and support for rural lifestyles of the mountain communities in and around the forest.
I thank all concerned citizens for their involvement in managing the Lincoln, which is your national forest. I ask for your support, your energy, and your ideas to help us meet this challenge.
Corbin Newman is regional forester of the USDA Forest Service’s Southwestern Region.