Analysis: fuel treatments in Santa Fe Fireshed prove positive investment

New Mexico has been home to much larger aspen communities in the fairly recent past. Because it reproduces clonally underground from adult trees aspen (Populus tremuloides) is one of the first plants to reestablish after fire. 

The timber industry doesn't like prescribed fire because burns release aspen and kill pine species. Ponderosa pine sucks billions of gallons from aquifer recharges, needles absorb heat and accelerate snow melt while aspen leaves reflect sunlight in the summer months and hold snowpacks in winter. Insects like the mountain pine beetle and spruce bud worm can help promote drought- and fire-tolerant species like aspen.

The US Park Service has resumed burning in the Pecos National Historical Park, the Santa Fe National Forest is burning slash piles in the Jemez Mountains and reducing fuels on the Rowe Mesa and in the Santa Fe Fireshed. In southwestern New Mexico the Gila National Forest is also gearing up for fuel reduction

Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed House Bill 57 or the Prescribed Burning Act to help reduce fuel loads and establish training and certification programs to conduct burns on private land.
The U.S. Forest Service engaged Earth Economics to conduct an analysis of the social, environmental, and economic benefits that the fireshed provides for the surrounding community, and to explore the impact of the proposed fuel reduction treatment on these benefits. This conservative analysis found that the proposed fuel treatments are estimated to generate between $1.44–$1.67 in benefits for every dollar invested in treatment. The majority of these benefits directly accrue to the Santa Fe community, through avoided air quality impacts, recreational losses, damages to structures, and source water impacts. [GREATER SANTA FE FIRESHED: TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE ANALYSIS OF FUEL TREATMENTS | 2021]
Learn more about the effects of fire on aspen linked here.

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