Southwest Jemez Mountain FAQs

In addition to the questions and answers below, refer to the Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.

The collaborative forest landscape restoration program Glossary of Terms can assist you with terminology.

  1. What is forest restoration, and what are forest restoration treatments?
  2. How is restoration forestry different from what you’ve done in the past?
  3. Why here, why now?
  4. What is the collaborative forest restoration project expected to achieve?
  5. Who is leading this forest landscape restoration project?

 

1. What is forest restoration, and what are forest restoration treatments?

Restoration is a vision for the future rooted in respect for the past. Restoration forestry uses forest conditions prior to European settlement as a reference guide. Prior to grazing, logging and fire suppression, forests of the southwest were inherently more diverse and sustainable than today’s forests. A restored forest would resemble, but would not duplicate, the structure, composition and function of the fire-adapted ecosystems that were seen by early European explorers. The forest conditions we are trying to restore and maintain don't represent a particular point in time, but rather the range of natural variability that occurred historically within a particular forest ecosystem.

The intent behind forest restoration is to make our forests more resilient and better able to recover from natural disturbances like insect or disease epidemics, wildfires, drought and climate change. A forest that that has been restored to historic conditions will have a greater diversity of plant species and size classes of trees, including very large old trees, and will be more resistant to devastating crown fires.

Restoration treatments include all activities that improve the capacity of the ecosystem to adapt and recover after it has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. The most common restoration treatments are thinning and prescribed fire, which help reduce the density of live overstory trees and the amount of fuels on the ground. Research on the impact of restoration treatments confirms that these actions can help mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires across large landscapes.

2. How is restoration forestry different from what you’ve done in the past?

We like to think that restoration forestry “sees the forest through the trees,” focusing on a holistic approach to managing ecosystems rather than just focusing on the growth and development of trees. It also emphasizes planning at a larger landscape scale to account for natural ecosystem disturbance processes and functions.

Like traditional forestry, restoration forestry incorporates expert knowledge of silviculture (how forests grow and develop) in the design of forest management activities. The idea of restoration forestry represents an evolution in land management initiated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which first mandated the interdisciplinary review of proposed actions.

3.  Why here, why now?

The southwestern portion of the Jemez Mountains in the Jemez River watershed is an excellent candidate for landscape-scale forest restoration. A majority of these lands consist of fire-adapted forest ecosystems that are significantly altered from their historic conditions. These forests are at high risk for catastrophic fire that could cause serious damage to water, wildlife habitat, and other natural and cultural resources, as well as many communities within the area. The Jemez River watershed has been identified as urgently in need of restoration. The Sandoval County Community Wildfire Protection Plan ranked the area as a top priority for treatment to reduce the risk of crown fire. Assessments by both the Santa Fe National Forest and New Mexico State Forestry identified the Jemez Mountains as a top priority for restoration of fire-adapted ecosystems and water quality protection. The Jemez River is part of the Middle Rio Grande basin that supplies water to the Albuquerque/Rio Rancho area. Catastrophic fires like the Cerro Grande and the Las Conchas Fires demonstrated the risks of inaction, threatening the ecological and social values supported by a healthy forest. Our restoration strategy is aimed at creating conditions that allow fire to play its historic ecological role in sustaining forest ecosystems and watershed functions.

4.  What is the collaborative forest restoration project expected to achieve?

The goals and objectives of the SWJM were developed collaboratively with a broad range of stakeholders and include the following:

  • improve the resilience of ecosystems to recover from natural disturbance
  • reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire
  • restore natural fire regimes
  • increase forest diversity and old-growth characteristics
  • improve fish and wildlife habitat
  • improve water quality and watershed function
  • mitigate climate change impacts
  • protect cultural sites
  • support local economies by utilizing woody byproducts

Restoration activities will also help control invasive plant populations, maintain or decommission existing roads and trails, and maximize retention of large trees and old-growth stands.

5.  Who is leading this forest landscape restoration project?

Lead partners in this landscape-scale collaborative restoration project include the Forest Service, Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute, The Nature Conservancy and Forest Stewards Guild. By bringing more than 40 different stakeholder groups together to develop the SWJM project, the project ensured that collaboration and community are at the heart of a shared vision for sustainable management of the forest. The cross-jurisdictional project includes adjacent land managers as key collaborators, including the Pueblo of Jemez, the Pueblo of Santa Clara, Bandelier National Monument, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Other key collaborators include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, New Mexico State Forestry, Sandoval County, National Fire Protection Association Firewise Communities, Fish and Wildlife Service, WildEarth Guardians, and other conservation and wildlife groups, government agencies, ecological research scientists, and individuals interested in restoring these lands.

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Key Contacts

  • For Schedule of Proposed Actions:

    Sandra Imler-Jacquez
    Environmental Coordinator
    505-438-5443
     
  • For the Southwest Jemez Mountains Landscape Restoration Project:

    Karl Buermeyer
    Implementation Lead
    575-829-3535