National Forest Foundation | New Mexico

New Mexico

NFF's New Mexico Program

For thousands of years, New Mexico has been home to diverse human populations. These people have managed and engaged with their forests, shaping their identities across the landscape.

New Mexico is home to the Gila Wilderness Area, the United States' first designated wilderness area, established in 1924 due to the advocacy of conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold. The five National Forests in New Mexico now provide outdoor recreation opportunities, fuelwood for heating and cooking, food, employment, and clean drinking water to much of the state, including urban areas like Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces.

We envision a future where the stunning natural beauty and abundant resources of our national forests thrive along with the communities that rely on them.

The NFF is working to improve and maintain trail networks, support post-fire restoration and reforestation, implement Wood For Life opportunities, and expand outdoor ethics education on the Santa Fe, Carson, Cibola, Gila, and Lincoln National Forests.

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Our partnership began with the Santa Fe National Forest in February 2023 when we hired the NFF’s first New Mexico Program Manager to support strategic planning, partnership coordination, fundraising, and project management. Our initial focus on the Santa Fe National Forest was to facilitate Forest Service staff and partners to create a strategic plan for Wood For Life initiatives and riparian restoration within the Rio Chama Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) as well as aid in post-fire restoration of the Hermit’s Peak Calf Canyon burn area.

Together with the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests, and in conjunction with state forestry, the NM Reforestation Center, and local partner organizations, we have implemented these projects and entered into the greater Hermit’s Peak Calf Canyon Post-Fire Restoration Agreement, outlining our scope of work for the next five years. Our team is now working to fundraise for and implement projects identified in this strategy.

Our partnerships have expanded with similar agreements on all five forests, spanning all resource areas from instream restoration and wildlife habitat to sustainable recreation and wildfire recovery.

HPCC Invasive Species Survey and Removal

The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon (HPCC) Fire and suppression activities in 2022 affected many communities and large portions of the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests, including areas of ecological significance such as riparian, wet meadows, and sensitive plant habitat. Long-term post-fire recovery involves a complex, ongoing process of recovery, restoration, monitoring, and assessment of the damage to both the environment and local communities.

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As part of the recovery effort, the proposed HPCC Invasive Species Treatment Project aims to implement a comprehensive invasive plant treatment plan in the HPCC Fire Footprint with a primary objective of surveying and controlling the spread of invasive plant species and promoting native vegetation restoration. Post-fire disturbance has created new niches for the invasion of noxious weeds, allowing them to expand rapidly, take over fire lines and new roads, outcompete native vegetation, and disrupt ecological processes. Invasive species also create a significant amount of fuel for wildfires and can alter wildfire behavior, increasing severity.

The NFF is working closely with the U.S. Forest Service and community partners to evaluate the risk of invasive plant introduction and spread in the burned area to aid in the recovery of native vegetation and reduce the risk of imminent post-wildfire threats. Actions include detection, monitoring, treatment, re-treatment or maintenance of invasive plant species. Our goal is to treat priority acres resulting in an overall decrease of invasive species, an increase in forest resilience, and a reduction of fire risk across the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI).

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Rito Peñas Negras Stream Restoration

The Rito Peñas Negras Stream Stabilization and Restoration Project is a multi-phase approach to restore the Rito Peñas Negras to a perennial stream that supports Rio Grande cutthroat trout and Rio Grande chub. Rito Peñas Negras is in degraded health due to excessive fine sediment loads and high turbidity, exacerbated by historic grazing practices, an extensive road system, past timber harvest, and dispersed recreation practices within the active floodplain.

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In partnership with the Forest Service and Rio Grande Return, the NFF is carrying out ongoing restoration efforts by building additional and maintaining previously installed in-stream structures and Beaver Dam Analogs, re-wetting the historic extent of the wetland, mitigating headcut migration through rock structures, and consolidating and constructing cattle and elk exclosures.

This project reduces and prevents channel erosion and incision, improves aquatic habitat conditions, promotes vegetation establishment, improves streambank stabilization, and promotes healthy springs, wetlands, and biodiversity.

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Wood For Life

Wood For Life (WFL) is a collaborative network of organizations in New Mexico and across the Southwest region working to achieve common goals. WFL’s mission is relationship building, coordination, and information exchange across a network of partners in New Mexico and beyond that facilitates the supply, transportation, processing, and distribution of firewood to communities in need and promotes the sustainability of healthy forests.

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The principal goals are to provide resources and a sustainable source of firewood to local Tribal, land-grant communities, and to the public, through forest restoration efforts; to reduce forest-wide fuels; and to foster and strengthen partner relationships.

In the summer of 2020, the NFF launched the innovative Wood for Life Program in northeastern Arizona to address an acute shortage of fuelwood for basic needs in the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation. That same year, declines in juniper on Bureau of Land Management lands bordering the Navajo Nation led to the suspension of firewood cutting permits in northern New Mexico while the San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant’s closure looms. Wood For Life expanded to New Mexico with its first project, Rock Creek, in 2022, the Cordovas unit in 2024, and the greater Zuni Mountains Wood For Life Project set to begin summer of 2024. Based on lessons learned, the NFF is building a pathway to connect wood from forest restoration treatments on New Mexico National Forests with Tribal and rural communities.

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Mannie Lopez, New Mexico Program Manager, at 505.373.7983 or [email protected]

Martha Egnal, Southern New Mexico Program Coordinator, at 505.590.6791 or [email protected]