Federal-State Partnership in New Mexico Aims to Take Collaboration to the Next Level
Release Date: Nov 15, 2019
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Vicki Christiansen, USDA Forest Service Chief, signed an agreement between the federal and state government early Thursday morning focused on shared stewardship.
The agreement establishes a framework that will help state and federal governments co-manage wildfire and other forest health risks across the land more efficiently. The agreement strengthens an already solid partnership between the state of New Mexico and the Forest Service while implementing a strategy released by the Forest Service last year. A modern perspective is offered in "Toward a Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes: An Outcome-Based Investment Strategy" to address challenges on public lands such as catastrophic and longer wildfire seasons; threats to water sources, wildlife habitat; and air quality, and safety of firefighters and residents.
“This landmark agreement gives the state a greater say in management practices in the national forests in New Mexico,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “By sharing stewardship of this precious natural resource, we recognize that forest fires, invasive species, and droughts don’t recognize artificial boundaries. By acting together, we can better coordinate our efforts to protect and manage our forests.”
Shared Stewardship between the two governments will elevate planning and decision-making from the national forest level to the state level when appropriate and be inclusive of diverse partners throughout the state. Since 2014, the state has funded about 36,000 acres of forest restoration treatments on all lands, 23,000 of those acres on National Forest System lands. In early 2019 the New Mexico Legislature authorized $2 million of annual funding to support watershed restoration efforts at a large scale and across all lands.
Chief Christiansen also emphasized the importance of the agreement. “The signing of this agreement builds upon years of collaboration between the state of New Mexico and USDA Forest Service,” she said. “Today we have a new framework for setting priorities together and combining resources to achieve healthier forests for the people of New Mexico. We will use every available authority and tool at our disposal to support partnership efforts to improve forest health.”
USDA Forest Service Southwestern Regional Forester Cal Joyner concurred, pointing out that Shared Stewardship represents a natural evolution of the already strong partnership between the Forest Service and the state of New Mexico. “It is a significant step for both us as we work together to move to the next level of collaboration,” he said. “It also supports our priorities here in the Southwestern Region, what we call our 3Rs - Relationships, Recreation, and Restoration - while helping us achieve the mission of USDA Forest Service - sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of our nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.”
The agreement was signed at the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary, an appropriate venue that was the site of the first timber mill operation in New Mexico.
Photos of the signing ceremony can be found at the Forest Service Southwestern Region Flickr.