A forest restoration project in central New Mexico has been awarded an additional $2 million by the USDA. The money will allow state and federal agencies to cover more ground with fire prevention activities such as tree thinning, hazardous fuel removal and controlled burns.
Advocates with The Nature Conservancy said the funding is a much needed shot in the arm for efforts like the Isleta Project, a Forest Service restoration project taking place in Albuquerque’s east mountains.
Laura McCarthy is the conservation programs director with The Nature Conservancy. She said while the primary goal will be the reduction of severe wildfires, the resulting land improvements on about 10,000 acres will have a large impact on the well being of New Mexico's water supply.
"Last year, three of our state's major rivers, the Rio Grande, the Pecos, and the Gila, all had flows with wildfire ash and debris," McCarthy explained. "And while the east mountains and the area of the Isleta Project is not an area that would necessarily flow into the Rio Grande, it is the potential source of an ignition for a large wildfire that could burn into the Rio Grande basin."
McCarthy added that the area could also see some economic benefits from the project. According to the New Mexico Forest Industry Association, treating 1,000 acres of forest creates about 22 jobs.
Editor's Note: We originally reported in this article that the Natural Resources Conservation Service was spear-heading the forest restoration project. It was The Nature Conservancy. The former is helping to fund the latter. We regret the error.