The Forest Advocate publishes news and resources for the protection of the Santa Fe National Forest and all southwestern forests.

Intensive and widespread cutting and burning project largely unchanged from Proposed Action

Read the Forest Service’s summary

Read the full draft environmental assessment

Read the appendices to the draft environmental assessment

Watch The Forest Advocate’s online community event from October 9th

Protecting Our Forest,
Our Community,
and Our Health

with conservation scientist
Dominick DellaSala

A presentation and discussion about how the Forest Service’s Santa Fe Mountains Project impacts our forest and all of us, and what we can do about it. The time for a response has come. 

Public comments on the
Santa Fe Mountains Project
draft environment assessment available

 Vast majority opposed to project
as proposed, and request an
Environmental Impact Statement

The Forest Service has made available public comments on the draft EA which were submitted via its web form. We will publish the remaining public comments submitted by email and mail, after obtaining them through a Freedom of Information Act request. Read our selection of representative comments on the Santa Fe Mountains Project.

Santa Fe Watershed, thinned and burned. Photo: Dee Blanco

Urge them to support an Environmental Impact Statement and a much more conservationist approach for the Santa Fe Mountains Project. Contact information for representatives is here.  

Dominick DellaSala and Sarah Hyden discuss the Santa Fe Mountains Project on KTRC’s Richard Eeds Show, 10/01/2021

The Forest Advocate has published more than 5,000 official public scoping comments submitted to the US Forest Service last year about their proposed 50,000+ acre Santa Fe Project. The Forest Service withheld these overwhelmingly negative comments from their website for almost a year and half.

La Cueva after USFS thinning in 2015. Photo: Jason Johnson
The Forest Advocate

Chad Hanson — The U.S. Forest Service clears trees from public lands in the name of fire prevention, but it doesn’t work. There are better strategies to protect communities, but don’t expect to hear about them from the logging industry.

“We’ve seen one historic, thriving mountain town after another destroyed by fires in recent years. It’s almost entirely avoidable and preventable if we focus directly on community protection. Instead, public funds are going toward chainsaws and bulldozers in the forest. That will only make climate change worse, damage wildlife habitat, and put communities at greater risk. And that’s not protecting forests or people.”

A New York Times article describes how trees and other plants are interconnected under the forest floor though a vast network of mycorrhizal fungi, and share resources.  Aggressive tree cutting disrupts and destroys the network, degrading forests.

“An old-growth forest is neither an assemblage of stoic organisms tolerating one another’s presence nor a merciless battle royale: It’s a vast, ancient and intricate society.”

The Forest Advocate
La Cueva Block A, 2019. Photo: Lyra Barron

George Wuerthner comments on a lawsuit declaration by atmospheric physicist Dr. Joseph Werne. Werne concludes that “By omitting atmospheric dynamics and wind-drag effects associated with vegetation treatments, fuels reductions designed to reduce fire intensity and fire spread are undoubtedly producing the opposite effect.”

To create effective fire policies, we need to face these facts — prescribed fire increases fire and smoke, is inefficient for public safety compared to home retrofits, and is inefficient for ecological restoration compared to managed wildfire.

The Forest Advocate

WildEarth Guardians webinar with Executive Director John Horning and ecologists Chad Hanson and Monica Bond discussing regeneration in burned forests, the necessity of mixed-intensity fire in forest ecosystems, and the ecological issues of forest thinning and burning treatments.

Have you had adverse health impacts from prescribed burn smoke?  Let the Forest Service know!

The Forest Service should know how prescribed burn smoke is affecting area residents.

Explain health effects prescribed burning has had on you, and send email to Santa Fe National Forest at:

US Forest Service

Jack Cohen and Dave Strohmaier explain in Wildfire Today why we must abandon our expectation that we can suppress 100% of wildfires and reject the false narrative that community protection requires wildfire control. . .  Instead, let’s focus on mitigating WU fire risk where ignitions are determined – within the home ignition zone.

We are more than eight months past the end of the official comment period for the Encino Vista Project, and there has never been a press release or notice put in a newspaper about the project.  Yet such a large cutting and burning project as 200 square miles has never before been proposed for Santa Fe National Forest.

White House Council on Environmental Quality issues final rule for rolling back National Environmental Policy Act protections

The Santa Fe area has been experiencing greatly increased amounts of prescribed burn smoke in recent years. It has become a major health concern to many area residents. The health impacts of prescribed burn smoke should be monitored, and more fully considered in the planning of fuel treatment projects proposed for the Santa Fe National Forest.

Satya Kirsch
George Wuerthner

Does thinning and applications of frequent low-severity fire over large areas restore forests, or does it degrade them? With side-by-side examples of untreated and treated forest, ecologist George Wuerthner explains in the Wildlife News which is ecologically healthier and why.

Most forest fuel treatment and logging projects throughout the west are based on the assumption that megafires have been increasing in recent decades, damaging forests and preventing them from re-growing. But is this assumption correct?

Bryan Bird

The Santa Fe Conservation Alternative was developed in the spring of 2019 by WildEarth Guardians, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife. It was submitted to the Forest Service as a less environmentally impactful alternative to the proposed widespread and intensive tree cutting and prescribed burning for our local area Santa Fe National Forest.

KSFR news director Tom Trowbridge interviews Sarah Hyden about the ways the US Forest Service is not genuinely including the public in the planning process of forest projects.  The interview was aired on July 14, 2020 on Wake Up Call and the Midday Newbreak Program.

Does thinning and burning our forests reduce wildfire risk?

The Forest Advocate provides a balanced view of important considerations for protecting ourselves, our homes, and our forests from wildfire, and about the natural and beneficial role of fire in our forest.

The Forest Advocate
Sam Hitt in the Santa Fe New Mexican: For decades now, the skeptical public has been told that forests are sick and that removing trees on a massive scale would make them healthy… Forests can be a mighty partner in solving the climate crisis if allowed to self-repair and adapt to the warming world. Our lives depend on it. 
Do you want to see much of your local forest, the beautiful areas where you go to hike and experience nature, thinned so heavily it becomes ecologically broken? Do you want to breathe even more prescribed burn smoke? Sarah Hyden addresses the Forest Service’s Santa Fe Mountains Project in the Santa Fe New Mexican.
It’s time for a forest revolution.
In the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sarah Hyden explains the urgency of taking action to protect our forest from widespread and aggressive fuel treatment projects that proceed without comprehensive analysis.
Dr. Ann McCampbell writes in the Santa Fe New Mexican that the Forest Service needs to return to its commitment of last spring to protect public health by maintaining its moratorium on planned burning during the pandemic. 
It seems like something out of an end-times science fiction movie. Fires are burning across the West.  A smoky pall hangs over everything, people are wearing masks to keep safe from an aggressive virus, and civil discord is steadily increasing. 
Jonathan Glass writes in the Santa Fe New Mexican that few know of the largest cutting and burning project ever proposed for Santa Fe National Forest.  It’s called the Encino Vista Landscape Restoration Project, and it was brought to life quietly by the U.S. Forest Service in the fall of 2019.
Sarah Hyden writes in the Santa Fe New Mexican that although the public has spoken in a landslide of support for protecting and conserving our forest, the U.S. Forest Service isn’t letting you know about it.
A forest resident describes the interconnectedness of the trees in our forests, and how the results of thinning projects show that our relationship with the land is broken. The forest demonstrates that we must live with reciprocity, and be responsible to nature.
Sarah Hyden explains in the Albuquerque Journal how the US Forest Service and their partners have co-opted the language of forest restoration in recent years to mean virtually the opposite — widespread cutting and burning of our forests.  Please read about the real meaning of Forest Service terms such as “forest health” and “resilient forests.”
It’s time to embrace a new paradigm for the forest. Instead of imposing the framework of our limited ecological understanding and perspective onto the forest, let’s be allies of the forest, to help support its inevitable transformation.  A version of this piece appeared in the Albuquerque Journal.
A conservation scientist reflects on the destruction by fire of his town of Talent, Oregon. “We have been falsely promised that if only forest managers can thin, smoke levels would drop and wildfires would be less intense,” Dominick DellaSala writes.
Sam Hitt in the Santa Fe New Mexican: “The roar of chain saws was noticeably absent this fall in the forests near town. We can thank the Mexican spotted owl, a courageous federal judge who exposed Forest Service misdeeds and decades of advocacy by WildEarth Guardians, successor to the scrappy advocacy group I founded 30 years ago.”
The Forest Advocate
The Forest Advocate
From "The Healthiest Forest," a film by the Old-Growth Forest Network

How do forests recover after disturbance? This 4 minute animated film from the Old-Growth Forest Network takes you on a journey that represents 300 years in the life of a forest. See how structure and biodiversity recover naturally, and how continued management like thinning and harvesting interferes with recovery.

Emmy Koponen

The Forest Advocate
Santa Fe, New Mexico