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

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 has been withholding these overwhelmingly negative comments from the public since July 2019.

New York Times article about 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.”

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.”

In March of 2020, the Forest Service suspended prescribed burns in the Santa Fe National Forest in order to protect residents from the combined impacts of prescribed burn smoke and Covid-19.  Confoundingly, the Forest Service chose to resume burning at a time when Covid was far more prevalent in New Mexico than it had been when burning was suspended.

“OPB’s seven-episode podcast “Timber Wars” tells the story of how a small group of activists and scientists turned a fight over ancient trees and the spotted owl into one of the biggest environmental conflicts of the 20th century, and in the process redefined the very way we see—and fight over—the natural world.” 
     — Oregon Public Broadcasting

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.

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 last fall.  
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.
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.

Photo: Emmy Koponen

The Forest Advocate
Santa Fe, New Mexico