Santa Fe National Forest announces winter prescribed pile burns

December 5, 2023

Pile burns in multiple districts to enhance forest health

Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) has announced plans for prescribed pile burns across various ranger districts this winter.

Following recent snowfalls, fire managers are preparing for these activities between December and April, primarily in the Cuba, Coyote, Jemez, and Espanola ranger districts.

The burns, which include both pile and broadcast burns, aim to reduce hazardous fuels, boost wildlife habitat, and foster overall forest health.

Prescribed fire: a tool for maintaining forest resilience

Prescribed fires are crucial for the health of fire-dependent forests in the Southwest.

Regular fire disturbances are necessary to maintain forest resilience.

Pile burning, targeting accumulated slash from thinning operations, and broadcast burns, which are controlled burns over a specified area, both serve to lessen the risk of larger, more intense wildfires.

Updated procedures for fire management

SFNF is implementing changes in their prescribed fire program, in line with the National Prescribed Fire Review recommendations.

This involves a new planning template, a revised Go/No Go checklist, a different approval and briefing process, and enhanced safety measures.

These include conducting burns only with adequate snowfall to prevent the spread of fire, compliance with air quality regulations, and quick access to contingency resources.

The use of technology like infrared sensing drones is also a key component in monitoring these fires.

Locations and community engagement

The proposed pile burn locations, all compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), include:

  • Cuba Ranger District: Public meeting on Dec. 6 at the Cuba District Office.
  • Coyote Ranger District: Public meeting on Dec. 7 at the Coyote District Office.
  • Jemez Ranger District: San Juan East Piles and Mesa Verde Piles.
  • Espanola Ranger District: Pacheco Piles and Hyde Park Piles.

Community engagement is a priority, with district offices organizing public meetings and keeping residents, businesses, and other stakeholders informed.

Updates on specific pile burn locations and dates will be available on the SFNF Website, Facebook page, NM Fire Info, and InciWeb.

FSJA Comment

The planned prescribed pile burns by the Santa Fe National Forest represent a critical and proactive approach to forest management.

By reducing the accumulation of hazardous fuels, these burns significantly lower the risk of uncontrollable wildfires, which have become increasingly prevalent in the Southwest region due to climate change and other factors.

The methodical and community-inclusive approach of SFNF in conducting these burns showcases a commitment to environmental stewardship and public safety.

The utilization of modern technology like infrared drones for monitoring further underscores the forest service’s dedication to efficient and safe fire management practices.

These burns not only protect communities and ecosystems but also serve as a valuable tool for maintaining the health and biodiversity of the forests.

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