Sunday, June 05, 2016

Expanding Pecos Wilderness a dangerous proposal

By José J. Varela López 

A proposal by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Wilderness Society has suggested that adding 120,000 acres to the Pecos Wilderness would protect those lands in perpetuity.

We all value the watersheds and recreational opportunities on our federally managed lands, yet to truly protect our natural resources over the long-term, nobody should support this proposal which would permanently set-aside more of our national forests from multiple uses and other associated benefits.

There is no shortage of wilderness within the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests.

The Pecos Wilderness already encompasses over 223,000 acres of land that cannot be managed for access nor to adequately reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, insects and disease.

Expanding the wilderness area by another 120,000 acres is not a “modest” addition. Instead, it would jeopardize the values we are trying to protect, whether it’s the local water supply, firewood gathering, recreation and hunting, air quality or the local economy.

There are claims that some of the new wilderness would fall under a special management designation. Even if such a designation legally permitted the reduction of forest fuel loads, it would be a mistake to add yet another layer of bureaucracy on federal land managers who are already struggling to implement critical projects on the ground.

...In order to truly “protect” an area, forest restoration may need to occur, which is precisely the reason that the Rio Grande Water Fund was developed and why there is such strong support for forest restoration.

We cannot protect the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests and our water resources by tying the hands of Forest Service personnel on the ground.

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