RUIDOSO, NM – March 26, 2013 – Several hazardous fuels reduction projects were completed in February, as a direct result of collaborative efforts and partner involvement. The Mescalero Apache Tribe’s Division of Resource Management and Protection (DRMP) thinning crew completed work on a 512-acre hazardous fuels reduction unit, strategically located along Raven Ridge, bordered by private land and homes located in Cedar Creek and Brady Canyon. Forest Service fire personnel also accomplished prescribed burning on 130 acres of that 512-acre unit. The DMRP thinning crew then focused their efforts on a 348-acre unit, which runs along Raven Ridge towards the Forest and Mescalero Reservation boundary.
Prescribed burning of a small, but critical unit of slash piles was conducted in mid-February, adjacent to private property along Ski Run Road. The prescribed burn’s success can be directly attributed to the flexibility and cooperation of the owners, staff and renters of the cabins. Owners of the Bottlehouse Rental Cabins supported the project and worked closely with fire managers to accommodate critical timeframes for prescribed burning activities. The staff and cabin renters maintained flexible operating schedules during the periods that burning operations were underway.
The 433-acre Cedar Creek unit, across from the Smokey Bear Ranger Station, is receiving a final treatment, which involves the mastication (grinding) of: residual slash from previous fuels reduction work, naturally-accumulated dead and down logs, as well as new dead standing trees. The treatment will enhance and add a measure of safety to popular walking paths and recreation sites within the area. The Cedar Creek unit will be one the first units of the larger scale “Perk-Grindstone Planning Area” in which the long-term desired outcome has been achieved, resulting in a healthier timber stand, wildfire resiliency, and added home protection within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).
A 30-acre tree thinning and pile burning project around Blue Lake was completed by Forest Service fire personnel in early January. This is part of an ongoing project that will result in both hazardous fuels reduction and improved wildlife habitat conditions. The meadow area known as “Blue Lake” retains water from monsoonal rains and serves as a vital drinking water source for a variety of wildlife species, including deer and elk. In 2000, the Cree Fire threatened this area, followed by the Homestead Fire in 2001, and the 2011 White Fire. These fires had the potential to cause significant resource damage to the Blue Lake Wildlife Habitat Area. In order to continue mitigating future risks, an additional 625 acres are targeted for tree thinning and prescribed burning. Completion of this project will improve the timber stand from Blue Lake (on top of Gavilan Ridge) down to residences of Homestead Loop and in the bottom of Gavilan Canyon.
The Lincoln National Forest has been enthusiastically collaborating with other agencies and groups to seek innovative opportunities for funding and implementation in order to continue work on hazardous fuels reduction projects. Interagency coordination and partnerships are crucial to accomplishing the work that can help protect the Ruidoso area from future wildfires. Partners involved in recent projects include: Bonito Volunteer Firefighter and Lincoln County Commissioner, Katherine Minter, who assisted with the Blue Lake prescribed burn in January; Rural Forester for the South Central Mountains (SCM) Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, Mike Caggiano; and the Military Veteran’s Green Corps program assisted with the prescribed burn on Raven Ridge in December.
“By focusing on a common goal, we are able to get the work done,” said Mike Caggiano, even if we approach it as one project or one unit at a time. We are encouraged by the efforts of many entities, including those of the homeowners and local businesses. Many of us recognize the importance of looking at the ‘big picture’ and, together, we’re experiencing the value of coordination, cooperation, and collaboration!” the Rural Forester added.