NEW MEXICO – The recent prescribed burn in Pacheco Canyon on the Santa Fe National Forest just a few miles northeast of the city of Santa Fe marked an important milestone in shared stewardship. In 2015, the New Mexico state forester and the City of Santa Fe’s fire chief convened federal, state, county, municipal and non-governmental partners to talk about a new idea – the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed – and how it could accelerate forest restoration across a complex, multi-jurisdictional 107,000-acre landscape at high risk for wildfire.
Three and half years later, the Pacheco Canyon Forest Resiliency Project is one of the first Fireshed prescribed burns on National Forest System lands. Only six miles from Santa Fe and close to several popular recreation sites, including the Santa Fe ski basin, Pacheco Canyon was of particular concern to the Pueblo of Tesuque, which owns land both within and adjacent to the project area. The tribal government collaborate closely with the SFNF on planning the proposed treatment and provided funding for analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Tesuque Pueblo fuels crew performed much of the prep work prior to the burn, and when it came time to implement, the Tesuque Pueblo firefighters were on the ground with Forest Service crews and other cooperators. Other partners on this successful project included the National Park Service, Santa Fe County Fire Department, Santa Fe City Fire Department, Los Alamos County Fire Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and Forest Stewards Guild, demonstrating the value of a collaborative approach to improving the health and long-term resilience of at-risk watersheds and communities.
Partners in the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition came together to address the risk of high-severity wildfire on the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The consequences would be catastrophic ecologically, economically and socio-culturally.
The successful Pacheco Canyon prescribed burn is another piece of the puzzle that members of the coalition are fitting together to make communities more adapted to wildfire.