The Encino Vista Project

by The Forest Advocate       May 30, 2020, updated October 9, 2020

The Encino Vista Project in the Jemez Mountains northwest of Los Alamos has been kept so quiet that it has never had a news story written about it. Yet the 200 square mile cutting and burning project is the largest ever proposed in Santa Fe National Forest. The Forest apparently considers the project so trivial that they have never mentioned it in a public notice or in their frequent news releases.

On November 18, the scoping document for the Encino Vista Project was published by the Forest on a project web page, along with a cover letter from former Coyote District Ranger Richard Nieto. On November 19, as may be seen from Ranger Nieto’s letter, the Forest began a 30 day comment period which ended December 19.

If one looks for the project in the Forest’s Schedule of Proposed Actions (SOPA), the massive size of the project is not apparent because the acreage is not specified in the table.

The Scoping Document states the project is proposed because “the existing condition within the project area is not meeting desired conditions.”  The proposal includes:

  • Ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer (frequent fire): Broadcast and pile burning and subsequent maintenance burning in conjunction with or independent of, uneven- and even-aged silvicultural system methods on up to 77,106 acres.
  • Pinon-juniper, spruce/fir, and mixed conifer with aspen (infrequent fire): Uneven- and even-aged silvicultural system methods in conjunction with broadcast and pile burning on up to 22,200 acres.
  • Prescribed burning without prior silvicultural treatments on up to 10,907 acres; additional maintenance burning would occur on a 5-20 year rotation for all prescribed burning areas.
  • Project-specific amendments to the Forest Plan in relation to guidelines regarding Mexican spotted owls.
  • Generation of timber and other wood products:

“Many products could result from treatments such as biomass, fuelwood, posts and poles, and saw timber, which could be sold through personal use and commercial wood product contracts. These products would be removed from the project area via existing and temporary roads.”

Santa Fe National Forest writes here that the purpose of the Encino Vista project is:

“To restore the frequent-fire forests by modifying the arrangement of forest stands, openings, and interspaces in order to improve the potential for stand regeneration and offset the risk of forest type loss due to natural success an [sic] wildfire.”

Santa Fe National Forest has declined to make the public scoping comments received about the project available to the public, so they have been obtained by The Forest Advocate via a Freedom of Information Act request and published here.