Preventative measures: Crews thin forest overgrowth as wildfire threat lingers
December 22, 2017 07:45 PM
EAST MOUNTAINS, N.M. – Usually, the sight of trees being chopped down doesn't seem like a good thing.
But in the East Mountains on Friday, that's what is being done in increasingly dry conditions to protect homes from the next big wildfire, as central New Mexico continues to endure a drought that is reaching 80 straight days.
"This particular machines pushes a tree down. It has a grill on the front end of it. Inside, it has a chipping barrel, if you will, and it runs over the tree and chips it up into different sizes," said Kim Kostelnik of the New Mexico Forest Industry Association, as the massive machines she's describing were being used to chew through 500 acres of overgrown forest in the area.
Kostelnik said thinning out the overgrowth could help keep the next wildfire from spreading out of control into nearby neighborhoods.
"When a fire comes through this area, now it has the tendency to stay on the ground if it's not a wind-driven fire," she said. "But it burns and creates nutrients for the soil once that fire's out."
The work is just a small part of the Rio Grande Water Fund – a project involving the U.S. Forest Service, Nature Conservancy and the New Mexico Forest Industry to restore 600,000 acres of at-risk forest in northern New Mexico over the next 20 years.
Laura McCarthy, associate state director for the Nature Conservancy in New Mexico, says the forest thinning also protects the water supply of nearby residents, in addition to helping native wildlife.
"(It's) opening up the forest and creating an environment for grass to grow and thrive," she said. "(That) will attract species like turkey, deer and bears that used to frequent these areas."
Updated: December 22, 2017 07:45 PM
Created: December 22, 2017 04:19 PM
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