Sen. Heinrich shares concerns about national forest closures in New Mexico

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SANTA FE, N.M. – Starting Thursday, Cibola, Santa Fe, and Carson national forests will have some major closures due to the ongoing wildfires and the threat of new ones. 

But not everyone agrees with these closures, including U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich:

“I used to be an outfitter guide I know what its like to be told by public lands agency you can’t access where you do your business, and a lot of these small communities have really had one emergency after another and this layers on an economic emergency,” Heinrich said in an interview with KOB 4. 

Heinrich adds that a lot of these small forest communities were deeply impacted by the years of COVID-19 restrictions, and they are already hurting because of the nearby fires. Therefore, adding blanket closures will only hurt them more. 

“There are many high-risk activities, but we can’t completely cease to function as a state while we manage those things. We all need to do a better job of educating the public saying you shouldn’t be smoking outside right now, you can’t have fires, and BBQs on our public lands right now. It’s too high a risk,” Heinrich said. 

Heinrich says he has had conversations with the chief of the Forest Service, saying he wants to find a middle ground that protects our forests without shutting them down. 

“You can do ‘day use’ where you don’t have people camping out overnight and you don’t have BBQs or fires or the kinds of things that have cause the ignitions in the past,” Heinrich said, “We just need to recognize the risk level of someone running in the foothills in the Sandias is not the same as someone having a BBQ in the Santa Barbra Campground in the Carson National Forest.” 

Despite Heinrich’s opposition, the closures start Thursday morning and are expected to last through at least July 18. If people are caught in those closed-off areas, they could face fines of up to $5,000 or even prison time.