opinion

Old Growth Forests Beginning to Get Needed Protections  Sarah Hyden, Albuquerque Journal, February 1, 2024
Sarah Hyden describes the importance of mature and old growth forests, and recent and upcoming initiatives to protect them by restricting logging on national forest lands.

Life can save the planet

Forest Service needs to rethink  its cut and burn policiesI don’t understand why our elected representatives and most of the public seem to be fundamentally accepting that the U.S. Forest Service has caused yet another prescribed burn fire in the Santa Fe National Forest, burning over 45,000 more acres, and burning down more homes.

How many more fires can we tolerate?  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, July 31, 2023
When will it stop? It’s up to us. We are now told by the U.S. Forest Service that its actions caused the Cerro Pelado Fire, with yet another escaped prescribed burn.

Act now, cutting, burning about to start in forest  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, April 15, 2023
The Forest Service intends to finalize the Santa Fe Mountains Landscape Resiliency Project decision within a few weeks, and hopes to start the project next month — despite intense public opposition to aggressive tree-cutting and prescribed burn treatments in our local forest.

In the northern forests, residents are afraid  Ann Hendrie, Santa Fe New Mexican, April 8, 2023
Longtime resident of Ojo Sarco, near the Carson National Forest explains why her community is afraid of Forest Service thinning and prescribed burning treatments. She recommends chipping cut trees as an alternative to burning the slash piles.

Separate forest science from forest management  Paul Davis, Santa Fe New Mexican, Jan. 29, 2023
This inability to separate science (what we know) from management (what we should do) dominates U.S. Forest Service thinking and policy, confuses the public, muddles our understanding of forest science and starts in our forestry schools.

Reduce forest fuels while protecting bird habitat  Peggy Darr, Santa Fe New Mexican, Jan. 7, 2023
Defender’s of Wildlife Peggy Darr explains that some thinning may benefit bird species, but aggressive thinning reduces the abundance of already declining bird species, such as Grace’s Warbler.

US Forest Service, stop harming forest, communities and health  Sarah Hyden, Albuquerque Journal, Dec. 18, 2022
The Forest Service has not been listening to conservation groups and the public, who want an Environmental Impact Statement for the Santa Fe Mountains Project, and want a conservation alternative that supports a healthier forest and helps to genuinely protect communities from wildfire.

Response to “Commentary: counteracting wildfire misinformation, by Jones et al”  Posted by Sharon Friedman, The Smoky Wire:  National Forest News and Views, Sept. 20, 2022
Retired Forest Service Deputy Chief  Jim Furnish comments on a commentary written by Forest Service associated scientists,   “Counteracting Wildfire Misinformation.” in which they claim that most science contrary to the aggressive thin/burn paradigm is misinformation. “I encourage authors to welcome contrary opinion and emerging science that does not conform to their collective experience. The nasty truth is that forest fires defy simple explanations and solutions.”

The wisdom of forests? Leave them alone and they will heal  Sarah Hyden, Albuquerque Journal, June 26, 2022
Part of the deep intelligence of a forest is that it “knows” how to heal itself and to maintain an incredibly complex community and balance, even after major disturbances such as wildfire or bark beetle outbreaks.

Major shift in national wildfire policy needed Adam Rissien, WildEarth Guardians, May 17, 2022
Emphasis must be on protecting homes and communities while recognizing the crucial ecosystem benefits that fire provides. Adam Rissien, WildEarth Guardians Rewilding Manager, states “Ultimately, we cannot continue trying to dominate and control nature, especially under the guise of ‘restoring’ the forests.”

What is happening to the forests?  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, April 23, 2022, Updated May 29, 2023
It’s time to speak up now. The impacts of these large-scale and aggressive cutting and burning projects are much more than significant, they’re life-altering to the forest and to us. Let’s stand for life.

From the oldest forest in Montana  Rick Bass, Orion Magazine, Jan. 31, 2022
The government, under the previous administration, but abetted yet by the current one, says it’s time for this thousand-year-old forest to become “resilient.” Says that logging it down to dust—effectively, a thousand-acre clearcut—is the way to teach it resilience. They’ve named this proposed project, this fever dream, a remnant zombie from the previous reign, “Black Ram.”

Forests need fire — communities do not  Dominick DellaSala, Santa Fe New Mexican, Updated Our top priority needs to be solving the root causes of the fire problem by first getting off fossil fuels, storing more carbon in natural forests to slow down runaway climate chaos, and preparing homes through defensible space and home-hardening measures. Backcountry logging does nothing to solve this problem.

Logging doesn’t prevent wildfires  Sam Hitt, Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct. 12, 2021, Updated The people who died in the Paradise, Calif., wildfire were assured that fire breaks and commercially “thinned” forests would keep them safe. More recently, the mountain towns of Greenville and Grizzly Flats burned to the ground despite decades of “fuels management” in the surrounding national forests.

Protect our forest, community, and health  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct. 5, 2021, Updated 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, settling down into the Santa Fe basin from our surrounding forest as it is burned repeatedly?

Stand for the forest  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, May 9, 2021, Updated It’s time for a forest revolution. Sarah Hyden explains the urgency of taking action to protect our forest from widespread and aggressive fuel treatment projects that proceed without comprehensive analysis.

Burning during pandemic isn’t worth the risk  Ann McCampbell, Santa Fe New Mexican, Dec. 5, 2020, Updated 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. 

Forests as carbon preserves  George Wuerthner, The Wildlife News, Oct. 20, 2020
In the face of climate change society must accelerate the storage of atmospheric carbon if we hope to slow and eventually reverse the worse effects of the climate crisis. One of most effective and inexpensive ways to store carbon is by preserving trees in our forests (Law et al. 2018).

A talent evacuee asks officials to be responsible  Dominick DellaSala, Mail Tribune, Sep. 13, 2020
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,” DellaSala writes.

The great forest reset  Sarah Hyden, The Forest Advocate, Aug. 30, 2020
It seems like something out of an end-times science fiction movie. A smoky pall from fires hangs over everything, people are wearing masks to keep safe from an aggressive virus, and civil discord is steadily increasing.  A version of this piece appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

A sleeping giant in the forest  Jonathan Glass, Santa Fe New Mexican, Aug. 15, 2020, Updated Sept. 20, 2021
The plan is to cut and/or burn forest in the Jemez over a majority of a 200-square-mile project area starting 15 miles from Los Alamos. That is more than 2-1/2 times the project area of the Forest Service’s proposed Santa Fe Mountains Project, which is itself the largest cutting/burning project ever proposed for the Santa Fe National Forest in the Sangre de Cristos.

Let the Santa Fe National Forest heal  Sarah Hyden, The Smokey Wire, July 20, 2020
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.

Sorry Secretary Sonny, our national forests are not crops  Adam Rissien, The Smokey Wire, July 3, 2020
Forests are not simply sources of lumber, but living ecosystems that have inherent value and deserve our moral consideration.

All flourishing is mutual  Maj-Britt Eagle, The Forest Advocate, June 11, 2020
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.

Keep carbon in the forest  George Wuerthner, Montana Standard, June 5, 2020
Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, often said: “Conservation is the foresighted utilization, preservation and/or renewal of forests, waters, lands and minerals for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” It has become the agency’s motto. Yet in the age of climate change, the Forest Service has failed to re-evaluate what exactly constitutes the greatest good for society.

Forest Service is ignoring public comments  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, May 31, 2020, Updated The public has spoken in a landslide of support for protecting and conserving our forest. But the U.S. Forest Service isn’t letting you know about it.

Bedrock environmental law under assault  Santa Fe New Mexican editorial board, March 8, 2020, Updated The landmark National Environmental Policy Act — signed into law in 1970 by none other than Republican President Richard Nixon — is facing wholesale revision, with time running out to comment on proposed changes to the regulations governing how the law is applied.

Lack of transparency about Santa Fe deforestation  Jan Boyer, Santa Fe New Mexican, March 7, 2020
Are you aware that the U.S. Forest Service and its collaborators and contractors may soon be doing extreme thinning and/or burning of trees across over 250 square miles of forest around Santa Fe?

Managing our forests:  the words matter  Sarah Hyden, Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 16, 2020
The words we use define how we think about things. In forest management, words are oftentimes used to mean something very different than what they have meant in the past.

The time is now to preserve forests  Sam Hitt, Santa Fe New Mexican, Dec. 15, 2019, Updated 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.

Wrong direction for forest burning policy  Jonathan Glass, Santa Fe New Mexican, Nov. 24, 2019
New Mexico’s new “shared stewardship” agreement with the U.S. Forest Service seeks to “elevate and formalize” state and federal collaboration on forest policy (“State, Forest Service team up on stewardship,” Nov. 15). This is concerning because current state and federal policies each strongly support the highly questionable practice of deliberate, extensive forest burning.

Forest management requires accountability  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, Nov. 2, 2019
U.S. Forest Service, be accountable — to our forest and to us. The recent court order resulting from a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians, placing an injunction on timber management activities due to the Forest Service’s insufficient monitoring of Mexican spotted owl populations for 23 years, was about accountability (“Judge saves Christmas tree, but larger issues remain,” Oct. 28). The Mexican spotted owl population in our Southwestern forests has been in decline for decades, and the Forest Service has not obtained the required population trend data.

Logging injunction for spotted owl won’t steal national Christmas tree  John Horning, Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct. 19, 2019
The national Christmas tree this year will come from my home state of New Mexico. It might be the only Christmas tree that comes from a national forest in New Mexico — and if that happens, people are going to blame me. That’s because my organization, WildEarth Guardians, won a court ruling halting all timber management on 12 million acres of national forests in the Southwest (“Mexican spotted owl long at center of forest fight,” Oct. 13).

Here’s to a new way to manage forests  Dominick DellaSala, Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct. 5, 2019
Santa Fe is blessed with magnificent national forests, wild rivers and some of the cleanest airsheds in the nation. Many people are here to be part of, connect with and heal through nature. It’s only natural that there is public outcry when forests are cut down or burned.

Prescribed burns creating a smoky Santa Fe  Sarah Hyden, Albuquerque Journal, Sep. 15, 2019
Santa Fe has some of the cleanest air in the country – well, until recent years. Now, there are days we can barely see the Jemez Mountains through the murky haze. Much of the pall often hanging over the Santa Fe area is smoke from prescribed burns, which has greatly increased this year and is likely to continue to increase due to the 50,566-acre tree-cutting and prescribed fire project the U.S. Forest Service has proposed for our local forest.

Where wildlands meet urban areas, reduce fire risk  Santa Fe New Mexican editorial board, Sep. 3, 2019
Currently, the Santa Fe National Forest is updating its management plan. The Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition is continuing its work in thinning trees around the municipal water supply. As is always the case when it comes to handling resources, there is disagreement on both the management plan and current thinning projects.

Action needed if you think our public lands our ours  Jonathan Glass, Albuquerque Journal, Aug. 25, 2019
It’s time to tune in if you haven’t heard about our government’s cynical proposal to largely discontinue congressionally mandated public input and transparency for most projects across our 190-million-plus-acre national forest system. The Forest Service and its client industries are counting on our inattention.

Resiliency project risky to communities  Dominick DellaSala, Santa Fe New Mexican, July 15, 2019
Santa Fe is enveloped by majestic forests where no road or chain saw has gone before. Roadless areas and those with few roads are wellsprings of the region’s quality of life, anchoring soils, providing clean air and drinking water for downstream users, and solitude for wildlife and people alike. The region’s thriving tourism economy is rooted in its untrammeled landscapes.

Cut and burn our forest? Please comment  Jonathan Glass, Santa Fe New Mexican, July 6, 2019
We would have a more fire-safe forest, the U.S. Forest Service suggests in its recent proposed action for our local Sangre de Cristo Mountains, if we cut down most trees and shrubs across up to 33 square miles and set prescribed fires across up to 67 square miles, including all of the area first cut.

The timber beast is back from the ashes  Sam Hitt, Santa Fe New Mexican, June 22, 2019
Time to wake up if you like a refreshing walk in the woods and perhaps enjoy an overnight adventure in the backcountry. Behind the scenes, the timber beast is rising from the ashes. The piles of twigs and branches visible just beyond your hiking trail will soon be burned. Denuded areas with a few lonely trees are expanding rapidly. A rebranded timber industry is flexing its subsidized muscles.

Using conservation as alternative to burning  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, June 15, 2019
This is a critical time for our forest. The U.S. Forest Service has just released the proposed plan for the 50,000-acre Santa Fe Mountains Landscape Resiliency Project, focused on our nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The 30-day public comment period has begun. This plan involves intensive tree cutting and prescribed burning, intended to moderate fire behavior and restore forest health.

Fire in our forest requires analysis  Sarah Hyden, Albuquerque Journal, April 28, 2019
How many people have died in wildland fires in New Mexico in the past two decades? Seven – and six of them were from vehicular accidents related to our brave firefighters responding to fires. Four hundred people die per year on average on New Mexico roads, yet most of us drive almost daily without fear. So why such fear of wildfire?

Protecting our forests, our homes and ourselves  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican,  Feb. 23, 2019
In recent years, I have tried to help protect the Santa Fe National Forest from intensive tree thinning projects. Then, when new growth starts to come back, it’s usually burned off in prescribed burns. Now the U.S. Forest Service is planning to do these types of thinning treatments over 50,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest from Glorieta to north of Tesuque, a large-scale project called the Santa Fe Mountains Landscape Resiliency Project. The stated purpose is to moderate fire behavior and improve forest health.

Increased logging won’t prevent forest fires  Chad Hanson, Santa Fe New Mexican, Jan. 5, 2019
With last year’s shocking loss of thousands of homes and dozens of lives in the Camp and Woolsey fires in California, people are looking for answers as they try to understand how a tragedy such as this can be prevented in the future.

SF forest thinning policy needs clarification  Sarah Hyden, Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 30, 2018
Forest Supervisor James Melonas’s recent op-ed, “Lessons from a fire you likely don’t know about,” claims that a nearby forest thinning treatment caused the Venado Fire to drop down from a high intensity fire to a manageable fire, and that this indicates that forest fuel treatments are a real positive for the Santa Fe National Forest.

Let’s take back our forest  Sarah Hyden, Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 23, 2018
Who does the Santa Fe National Forest belong to? To all of us! It’s our forest.
Yet, the U.S. Forest Service often acts as if we have no right to be genuinely involved in what happens to our forest, as if it’s their forest.

Intense fire in our southwestern forests  Sarah Hyden, Associated Press, Oct. 14, 2018
Regeneration. Our Southwestern forests are abundantly alive and innately know how to heal and to come back after natural impacts such as fire. A healthy forest is constantly undergoing a myriad of natural processes and transformations. Although fire, especially high-intensity fire, looks like destruction, it supports the life and biodiversity of the forest. Our magnificent aspen stands are the result of high-intensity fire.

Protecting the irreplaceable tree  Sarah Hyden, Associated Press, May 13, 2018
It’s time for all of us to start thinking about what a tree really is, because the U.S. Forest Service is planning on cutting out the majority of trees from much of the local Santa Fe National Forest from north of Tesuque through Glorieta (“Protecting what makes Santa Fe special,” My View, March 25).

Be for the forest  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, Jan. 13, 2018
On Nov. 5, George Wuerthner, author of 38 books on forest ecology and natural history, gave a talk about wildfire and forest health, sponsored by the Santa Fe Forest Coalition. I want to thank George and every one of the many people involved with the event, including all the people who cared enough about the Santa Fe National Forest to come out on a Sunday afternoon to hear this important talk.

Recognizing the growing threat of wildfire  George Wuerthner, Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct. 27, 2017
The recent fires in California offer lessons that every Westerner should pay attention to.   First, forest reduction projects will not preclude large wildfires or save communities when there is low humidity, high temperatures, drought and high winds. Just as tropical rainforests thrive on rain that we can’t stop, Western ecosystems thrive on wildfire, and it is climate and weather that drives large wildfires, not “fuels.” We cannot log our way out of growing wildfire-induced home losses.

Fewer trees do not equate to fewer fires  George Wuerthner, Idaho State Journal, July 1, 2017
High intensity fires burn primarily during severe fire weather, and under such conditions the fire can usually not be stopped until the weather changes. Fuel treatments are generally not effective under these conditions.

Reader view:  help save our forest  Sarah Hyden, Santa Fe New Mexican, May 6, 2017
On a recent, warm January morning, I was in my house on beautiful land near the Santa Fe National Forest and heard the roar of chainsaws starting. I immediately felt dread, because I have seen some extreme tree-thinning jobs taking place in forest/urban interface areas

The Forest Advocate
Santa Fe, New Mexico