Carson National Forest and Taos Valley Watershed Coalition Receive Forest Restoration Funding

Employees thinning Hwy 150

Photo by Denise Ottaviano, Carson National Forest
Carson National Forest employees thin dense vegetation at Cuchillo Campground along Highway 150 as part of a forest restoration demonstration project. The project is a partnership with The Nature Conservancy-led Rio Grande Water Fund designed to restore 600,000-acres of at-risk forests and secure a healthy water source.

Taos, NM (February 12, 2018) - For Immediate Release. The USDA Forest Service and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are working together to improve the health of forests where public forests and grasslands connect to privately owned lands. Through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, the two USDA agencies are restoring landscapes, reducing wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protecting water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat.

"Through Joint Chiefs, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with agricultural producers and forest landowners to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs, and the Forest Service enhances forest health on public lands -- stitching together a larger footprint of healthy ecosystems in priority areas," said Kristin Graham Chavez, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs for NRCS.

This year, the agencies are providing $2.9 million to fund seven new projects. One of those projects that received significant funding involves forest restoration work that the Carson National Forest is coordinating with the Taos Valley Watershed Coalition (TVWC). The total funding for this partnership for Fiscal Year 2018 is $403,800, with $250,000 coming from the Forest Service and $153,800 being funded by NRCS.

Partners include the Carson National Forest, Rio Grande Water Fund, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), New Mexico Water Trust Board, Taos County, and Taos Pueblo. “The Nature Conservancy’s Rio Grande Water Fund – launched in 2014 – is all about collaboration,” said Laura McCarthy, Associate State Director for TNC in New Mexico. “By working together, we can reach our goal of thinning the forest to secure water for 1 million people.”

“What excites me most about this successful proposal is that it gives us an opportunity to move the idea of shared stewardship forward,” said James Duran, Forest Supervisor for the Carson National Forest. “The Taos Valley Watershed Coalition Landscape Restoration Strategy was developed by a diverse set of community members, jurisdictions, and stakeholders with a goal to improve and restore water quality, quantity, and ecological function of the forests and streams to the benefit of both local and downstream beneficiaries. TVWC has gained significant  momentum through partners over the last few years, and my hope is that the Joint Chief’s selection is another big step forward toward that goal.”

TVWC has identified a focus area of 280,000 acres of contiguous landscape featuring juniper woodland to spruce/fir forest. This area encompasses most of the headwaters of the Rio Grande within Taos County; waters that are critical to the economy and well-being of New Mexico’s most populous areas such as Taos, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque.

The TVWC has developed a Landscape Restoration Strategy that prioritizes areas for restoration treatments. Funding will be used for implementation activities on Taos Pueblo, private, and Carson National Forest managed lands. “This partnership allows us to think strategically about how we can reduce fuels and affect fire behavior to better manage fire risks,” says Rene Romero, Taos Pueblo.

The collaboration of agencies and community engagement with private land owners play a key role in improving the health of our forests. A key to success is reaching beyond borders. “Protecting our community’s watersheds requires collaborative projects that cross landownership and jurisdictional boundaries within the Taos Valley,” adds Nathan Sanchez, Taos County Planner.

For full project descriptions and information on completed projects, visit the Joint Chiefs’Landscape Restoration Partnership website.