With intense wildfires consuming hundreds of thousands of acres last year, New Mexico legislators are searching for solutions.
Jason Espinoza reports from the Roundhouse:
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This is Jason Espinoza with today’s capitol report.
A proposal to prohibit prescribed burns in New Mexico between March 1 and May 31 of any year was tabled Tuesday morning by the Senate Conservation Committee on a 4 to 3 vote.
Proponents of the legislation said the bill is a necessary response to the Hermits Peak / Calf Canyon fire, which was the result of a prescribed burn that got out of control, burned more than 340,000 acres, and led to a Presidential Disaster Declaration
However, in an agency analysis, the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department expressed concerns that a blanket prohibition on prescribed burns in the spring might put at risk the Department’s ability to fulfill its obligations under federal funding for hazardous fuel treatment within high-priority forests and watersheds throughout the state.
Additionally, the State Land Office noted in its analysis that its Office has performance measures that include the “number of acres of forest treated” and the Office expressed concerns that prohibiting prescribed burning during what is usually an ideal window of time to conduct such burns would reduce their agency’s ability to achieve its performance targets.
During committee testimony, the New Mexico State Forrester noted that prescribed burns are a critical tool for fire officials to reduce fire danger.
Despite the committee tabling the prohibition of prescribed burns during the spring, the Senate Conservation Committee did unanimously pass Senate Bill 6, which seeks to provide $100 million in zero-interest reimbursable loans to local governments to replace or repair infrastructure damaged by fire, flooding, or debris caused by the Hermit’s Peak – Calf Canyon Fire.
For the New Mexico News Network, I’m Jason Espinoza