Santa Fe Watershed 2004 >

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Update: Santa Fe Watershed, 2004

 

Improved Project Implementation


As of June 2004, approximately 3,000 acres have been treated in the SFMWP with another 2,800 slated for treatment in 2005-2006. Approximately 20% the acres have been mechanically thinned, while the other 80% have been hand thinned. In addition, some 800 acres of prescribed pile burning also have taken place. Close to $3 million has been spent on the project as of May 2004, with $250,000 funding the EIS.

Don Peterson, the contractor, uses two methods for fuels reduction. First, a fecon head is used to grind the trees into irregular-sized chunks that are spread across the forest floor. The fecon head is used mostly in areas where the slope is moderate or on about 20% of the treated acres. Hand crews are used to thin the remaining steep sloped areas. Peterson uses two subcontractors for the hand crews-Summit and Halco. Summit has two hand crews of 20 people each and can complete 20 acres per day. Halco has one crew of 12 and can treat 10-15 acres per day. The crews are primarily from Montana. Peterson wanted to hire local contractors but workman's compensation was prohibitively expensive and too few trained crews were available. New Mexico's workman's compensation is about 50% of payroll, while Montana rates are 15-18%.

In accordance with the prescription laid out in the EIS, land is being thinned to 50-100 trees per acre on average. The contractor is maintaining a clumpy, irregular pattern and the actual number per acre varies depending on the landscape conditions. Monitoring reveals that only 1-2% of leave trees are dying, which had been expected. The mortality has been caused by Ips bark beetles. Additionally, the USFS is perpetuating Southwest white pine as a diversity stand point because it is an increasingly rare species in New Mexico.

If the project can continue on its current trajectory, it will actually finish ahead of schedule. Contingencies that will impact completion of the project are continued funding, the ability of the forest to remain open during the dry summer months when wildfire danger is at its height, and the ability of the contractor to hire work crews. Continued funding for the project looks optimistic; another $1.5 million was appropriated for FY2004. Funding for the project comes through the regular appropriations process in Congress and has been supported by New Mexico Senators Domenici and Bingaman. As of July 2004, the Santa Fe National Forest was closed due to an elevated risk of wildfire so it is unclear how forest closures will impact the work schedule. Work crews continue to be available.


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