How New Mexico hopes to rebuild the forest following wildfire damage

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Thousands of acres have been burned across New Mexico because of the most recent wildfires. Now a new center in the state wants to replace what was lost before it’s too late.

"The effects of wildfires on New Mexico’s forests have been growing in terms of severity and extent of the land area over the last couple of decades," said Joshua Sloan with the New Mexico Reforestation Center at Highlands University. "It’s been getting really bad recently actually."

According to the center, which launched earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of acres of land need to be reforested. That’s millions of trees in New Mexico. Sloan said they’re currently able to plant 200,000 to 300,000 seedlings a year – far below what’s needed.

"So the target, under state’s forest action plan, which is the target for the New Mexico Reforestation Center, is to produce five million seedlings a year," Sloan said.

The center is a partnership between New Mexico Highlands University, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and the state’s Forestry Division. It just received a million dollars in federal funding for reforestation efforts.

"Those forests are where our water comes from, it’s where our wildlife comes from and where it lives," Sloan said. "It’s where we recreate, where we go to get back to the land. In the absence of scaling up our reforestation efforts, we’re going to keep losing this forest faster than it’s regrowing, faster than it’s being replaced."