Smoke from a prescribed fire in Northern New Mexico in 2018. Photo by Sage Faulkner
BY SAGE FAULKNER
Chama Peak Land Alliance
Fires have devastated much of the west in recent years. Spring winds, dry conditions from prolonged drought, and high fuel loads are all factors in the new seasonal fire outlook data. Released Jan 31, 2022, the current outlook is suggesting anticipating an earlier than normal start to a large fire season. (https://gacc.nifc.gov/swcc/predictive/outlooks/seasonal/Fire_Season_Potential_and_Outlook.htm)
Chama District Forester, Mary Stuever, says that with current predictions and conditions, residents must be especially careful with any ignition sources this spring, along with being prepared for a large fire event. “Living in the northern New Mexico mountain areas, we are prone to large devastating fires, and have dodged that bullet for several decades. We have to be ready to evacuate if need be.” Key to Mary’s concern is that because the area is large and rural, word may get out after the emergency has started. “Be prepared.”
If we can learn anything from these devastating fires throughout the west, it is that forest health is imperative for water users, even those a long distance from a forest. Snow run-off is the future water for most urban users in New Mexico. According to Caleb Stotts, Chama Peak Land Alliance Executive Director, approximately 80% of Albuquerque’s municipal water and 50% of Santa Fe’s municipal water is sourced from the San Juan Chama Watershed. “Because these watersheds are at risk of being damaged by severe wildfire, it is important that we work collaboratively to mitigate fire risk.” Because of these watersheds are so important, the San Juan Chama Watershed Partnership members are working together to bring attendees at the Rio Chama Congreso the most current information on the fire outlook in New Mexico. Rich Naden, Fire Meteorologist, National Park Service, will share the fire outlook during the Rio Chama Congreso webinar on February 25.
Rio Chama Congreso registration is free, and encouraged, for anyone in southern Colorado or throughout New Mexico, but especially those with ties to the watershed area. See the website for more information or to register: www.sanjuanchama.org