by Ron Loehman, Conservation Chair
The Southwest Jemez Mountains Landscape Restoration Project is a ten-year, $35 million collaboration among the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF), the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP), and the Jemez Pueblo “to restore sustainable ecological conditions on… approximately 210,000 acres in the Southwest Jemez Mountains”. This project is of interest to NM Trout members because it includes the entire upper Jemez River watershed and the outcome will affect streams we care about, such as the East Fork, San Antonio, Cebolla, and Guadalupe.
The SFNF is holding informational meetings on their part of the project, as required by Forest Service regulations and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). On Thursday, March 29 in Santa Fe and Saturday, March 31 in Jemez Springs SFNF staff presented their Draft of the Purpose and Need for the proposed work. The three stated goals are:
- Restore ecosystem function to the landscape, including improving fish and wildlife habitat and enhancing water quality and watershed function
- Modify fire behavior to reduce wildfire severity, such as by tree thinning and increasing forest diversity and old growth trees
- Create jobs and provide opportunities for local employment, such as by finding uses for woody by-products
With one major exception, I believe that the project’s goals and contemplated actions are deserving of NM Trout’s support. The exception is the decision by the SFNF not to consider grazing and the effects of cattle grazing in any of their planning and proposed actions. At the March 31 meeting in Jemez Springs, I, and many of the other attendees, strongly objected to that exclusion and stated that the project objectives will not be realized unless the SFNF explicitly considers cattle grazing, particularly in relation to riparian areas.
Two more public meetings are scheduled to roll out the Proposed Draft Action. These will present details of what the SFNF actually will do, as opposed to the general goals and objectives presented in previous meetings. The meetings are open to the public and attendees views and comments will become part of the public record that must be considered in the final plan. Please attend one of the following if you can make it.
- Thursday, April 12 at SFNF Supervisor’s Office, 11 Forest Lane, Santa Fe
- Saturday, April 14 at Valles Caldera Science and Education Center, Jemez Springs