Guide for writing letters about the Santa Fe Mountains Project to the Southwest Regional Forest Service, and to elected representatives

by The Forest Advocate       Jan 9, 2023

Below are points you can include in emails about the Santa Fe Mountains Project Draft  Finding of No Significant Impact and Draft Decision, which is planned to be finalized soon. Please put in your own words. Form letters are not very effective, so include your own thoughts and concerns. 

If you want to write a more detailed letter, you can use the Comprehensive Guide Points in The Forest Advocate Guide for writing Santa Fe Mountains Project objections.

You can find the email addresses of both Forest Service officials and the most relevant elected officials here.

— State who you are and why the east side of the Santa Fe National Forest is important to you.

– The Forest Service is proposing to cut up to 18,000 acres of a 50,566 acre project area, and to repeatedly burn up to 38,000 acres.

— Explain why you want an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)  completed for the project. An EIS is required if a project is controversial (scientifically,) or has a significant impact on forest resources. An EIS includes a range of alternatives that will be analyzed, and we want a conservation alternative developed that will protect the forest ecosystem, not degrade it.

— The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, caused by two escaped Forest Service prescribed burns, has shown us how devastating escaped prescribed burns can be to communities. There needs to be an analysis of the potential for escaped prescribed burns, and mitigations, in the context of an EIS. 

– In the Final Environmental Assessment (EA,) there was no analysis or even mention of the potential for an escaped prescribed burn, despite the devastating effects of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. Considering risks of escaped prescribed burns only in individual prescribed burn plans is not acceptable. It must be included in the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis, specific to the Santa Fe Mountains Project area.

— Implementing an increased number of prescribed burns, with decreasing safer windows of time to burn in, due to climate warming, is a recipe for more wildfires. 

— The public health consequences of an increased amount of prescribed burn smoke is unacceptable. There should be much less burning done. Explain the effects of prescribed burn smoke on you personally, if it is an issue for you. 

– The probability that any part of the forest that is treated by thinning and burning encountering a wildfire is exceedingly low, so most fuels treatments are not reducing the effects of wildfire. The amount of smoke we breathe from prescribed burns is largely in addition to the amount of smoke we breathe from wildfire.

–  It has been proven that the 100 feet surrounding homes is the relevant area to treat to prevent homes from burning. Thinning out in the forest, away from communities, does not help to protect homes from burning in a wildfire. 

– Past thinning treatments in this area (the eastside of the Santa Fe National Forest) have involved the removal of over 90% of trees, by tree count. It leaves overly open and damaged forest. The Santa Fe Mountains Project Final Environmental Assessment does not make it clear how intensive the proposed thinning would be.

— Any thinning/burning treatments done should be very limited, targeted, strategic and light-handed. The primary focus should be on genuine restoration and creating conditions that hold water in the forest ecosystem.

— The Forest Service continues to not listen to the public, who have been entreating them to plan a much better project that conserves the natural processes of our forest. 98% of scoping comments for the Santa Fe Mountains Projects requested that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be completed before the project is implemented.

— We want to be able to enjoy the beauty of the forest, heavily thinned and burned areas are not pleasant to recreate in.

The Forest Advocate
Santa Fe, New Mexico