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Update: Santa Fe Watershed, 2004

 

Update: Santa Fe Watershed, 2004


Background

In March 2004 our study team received a request from the Forest Supervisor on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF), Gilbert Zepeda, to revisit the case study and update it. From the time of completion of our initial study in January 2003 several new developments with the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed Project (SFMWP) had occurred, which the Forest Supervisor wished to have documented. We agreed that accurately representing the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed Project Case Study was in the best interest of both our research project and the USFS. In March 2004 Ginger Kunkel returned to the site to document progress, conducted additional interviews and collected additional supporting material.

Santa Fe Municipal Watershed Project Update

Northwest of the City resides the Santa Fe Watershed, a 17,520 acre municipal watershed, a mostly uninhabited site. Out of the 17,520 acres encompassing the watershed, the SFNF is responsible for 15,493. Half of the SFNF acreage is located in the Pecos Wilderness, where thinning is banned, and therefore off limits to any treatment. The City of Santa Fe owns 1,124 acres. The Randall Davey Audubon Society owns 135 acres and The Nature Conservancy owns 290 acres. The remaining 478 acres are owned by private residents. SFMWP Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was the product of a stakeholder process and focused predominantly on ecosystem restoration in 7,270 acres within the watershed. The EIS was completed in 2001, and in a nutshell, the prescription thins the forest from below, followed by low intensity prescribed burning. The 7,270 acres of treatment were estimated to cost approximately $10,000,0000, with the project taking between 5-10 years. The project called for 700-1,000 acres per year to be treated. The USFS hired a contractor, Don Peterson from Montana, to carry out the mechanical and hand thinning. The USFS pays Peterson $945/acre. The project was to be implemented in phases and the effects were to be monitored to allow an adaptive management approach to restore the watershed to sustainable conditions.

When we conducted our site visit in January 2003 only 18 acres had been treated. The biggest problems we identified were complacency within the USFS about timely and accurate implementation of the SFMWP Plan and failure of the community within and around Santa Fe to hold the Forest Service accountable. Since our visit in January 2001 much has happened with the SFMWP.

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Copyright©2004 Toddi A. Steelman and North Carolina State University

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