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.
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%.
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.
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.