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Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
Contact Information
  • Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
  • 333 Broadway SE. Suite 115
  • Albuquerque, NM 87102-3497
  • 505-724-3660
  • 505-724-3688 (fax)
You are here: Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems / Research by Project / Fuel Reductions: Santa Fe River Watershed

Effects of Fuel Reductions in the Santa Fe River Watershed

Project Title

Effects of Fuel Reductions in the Santa Fe River Watershed


Changes in the historic fire regime in addition to various land management practices have increased the likelihood of high severity crown fires in the Southwest.. During these types of fires, most trees are killed, and soils left bare and prone to erosion. Conditions that increase the risk of high severity fires exist in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed, which contains two reservoirs that provide 40% of the drinking water for the city. To protect water quality, to preserve reservoir storage capacity, and to restore sustainable watershed conditions, the Santa Fe National Forest is implementing a fuel reduction program in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed. Fuels reduction includes removing smaller trees leaving an average of 50 to 100 trees per acre (124 to 247 trees per hectare). Prescribed burning is being used in conjunction with mechanical treatments to remove material left from thinning and to reduce fuels in areas too steep to thin.

Thinning and burning has the potential to affect wildlife populations, primarily by altering habitat, though measures were taken to reduce negative impacts and habitats in the watershed were not treated uniformly. Monitoring was initiated as an adaptive management strategy, but is of additional interest in the study of ecological response to disturbance and restoration. Rocky Mountain Research Station began an assessment, including 2 years of baseline data, on the response of resident wildlife to fuels reduction treatments begun in 2002. The primary focus of data collection has been on bird communities and small mammals. Habitat availability was measured as structure and composition of the plant community. In addition, we collected information on arthropods, an important resource for foraging insectivores.

Selected Publications

Collecting vegetation data on the Santa Fe watershed
USDA FS, RMRS Albuquerque Lab
Collecting vegetation data on a thinned area of the Santa Fe watershed

GSD Principal Investigators

Finch, Deborah    Program Manager and Supervisory Biologist    505-724-3671
Hawksworth, David    Wildlife Biological Technician    505-724-3675

Cooperators and Sponsors

City of Santa Fe Water Department
National Fire Plan
Santa Fe National Forest
Santa Fe Watershed Association

Related Links

Santa Fe National Forest

Processing a chipmunk caught in a Sherman live trap
Cody Barnes, USDA FS
Processing a chipmunk caught in a Sherman live trap
Project Ecoregions