County commissioners call for more accountability from Forest Service following Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire

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SANTA FE, N.M. — The flames have died down but the impact of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire is still a big one.

The largest and most destructive wildfire in state history had the attention of Santa Fe County commissioners Tuesday. They voted unanimously to ask for more accountability from the feds.

With almost 350,000 acres burned, hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed – there is lots of criticism and concern over the fact the U.S. Forest Service lit the match.

“Santa Fe County asks them to cease prescribed burns. We need to talk, the Forest Service – let’s talk,” said Anna Hansen, Santa Fe County commissioner.  

Hansen and Anna Hamilton are asking for more accountability from the Forest Service. Both are behind this resolution.

They want an environmental impact statement for the Santa Fe National Forest that includes the following:

  • Alternatives to large-scale fuel reductions like those that started the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires
  • Identified risks of escape of intentional burns
  • New evaluations of the impact of climate change on forests and prescribed burns
  • And a stop to all prescribed burns in the Santa Fe mountains until the study is complete

“The risk profile for what can be done under current climate conditions is very different from what it was even three or four years ago,” Hansen said.  

The commissioners called attention to recent findings by the chief of the U.S. Forest Service that says climate change is presenting unforeseen challenges to prescribed burn planning and execution.

“I think it’s very timely that we bring this forward and encourage the forest service to rethink its practices in a big way,” said Hank Hughes, Santa Fe County commissioner.