New York Times: “Pellets are undoubtedly having a moment. The open question is whether a world increasingly desperate to avert climate disaster will continue to embrace, or turn away from, humanity’s original fuel: wood.”

The Guardian: “As humans proliferate, we have penetrated deeper into wildlife habitats, creating a pervasive rise in environmental sound with our gadgets, traffic and industry… Persistent noise from natural gas wells in New Mexico disrupted birds that feed on and distribute pinyon seeds.”

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.

WildEarth Guardians has reached an agreement with federal land and wildlife managers regarding Mexican spotted owl monitoring. The Forest Service plans to work in collaboration with the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop and implement controlled management experiments to determine the effects of mechanical treatments and prescribed fire treatments on owls.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

The New Republic: The logging industry has long promoted science suggesting logging suppresses fire. A lot of recent research disagrees. Logging may actually make fires bigger, hotter, and move faster. Weather and climate, including drought, high winds, and heat waves with triple-digit temperatures, have exacerbated Western wildfires. 

The Hill: “There is no “right way” to do the wrong thing. Focusing on fuel reductions (except in the immediate area of homes and communities) is unlikely to achieve the results advocates of “active management” desire. Instead, our best way forward is to promote firewise home protection policies, reduce rural sprawl into fire-prone landscapes and ultimately get a handle on carbon emissions.”

In the decades since government restrictions reduced logging on federal lands, the timber industry has promoted the idea that private lands are less prone to wildfires, saying that forests thick with trees fuel bigger, more destructive blazes. But an analysis by Oregon Public Broadcasting and ProPublica shows last month’s fires burned as intensely on private forests with large-scale logging operations as they did, on average, on federal lands that cut fewer trees.

Jes Burns/Oregon Public Broadcasting
The Forest Advocate

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed the Cone Fire Project to treat over a hundred thousand acres of Río Grande del Norte National Monument in Taos County with wildland fire, prescribed burns, thinning and herbicide applications. The herbicide proposed for use, tebuthiuron, has a high potential for groundwater contamination, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

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.

Adam Rissien explains in Counterpunch how the US Forest Service uses legal loopholes to avoid analysis and public involvement. Rissien states that it “appears the Forest Service is now using categorical exclusions as a blank check to authorize enormous logging projects in sensitive and pristine areas, including Roadless Areas and watersheds that supply drinking water to local communities, without involving the public and without fully disclosing the impacts to species and their habitats.”

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

The Forest Advocate
The Forest Advocate

Usually when public comments are filed with a federal agency, they are made, well, public. Not so for the Bureau of Land Management, which is demanding that in some cases, such comments only be obtained through the cumbersome Freedom of Information Act. Bobby McGill of Bloomberg Law explains. 

A nationwide coalition of organizations from the environmental justice, outdoor recreation, and conservation communities filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attack on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Matthew Koehler reports in The Smokey Wire.

View complaint

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 has never before been proposed by Santa Fe National Forest.

The Forest Advocate

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has issued a new memorandum to streamline processes to extract energy sources from our forests, to expedite environmental reviews to support active management, and to expedite broadband development on national forest lands.

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?

An “understanding” reached about Mexican spotted owls

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has agreed to drop its pending lawsuit that accused federal agencies of planning forestry projects that could harm the Mexican spotted owl. Framed as “a new understanding,” a truce was reached this week between the CBD and the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.

Read news story in Santa Fe New Mexican
Read CBD press release
Read the new “understanding

The Forest Advocate
Emmy Koponen

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.

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

The Forest Advocate
Santa Fe, New Mexico