08 April 2011

published by www.fireengineering.com

USA — The following information was released by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall:

With New Mexico’s wildfire season gearing up, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) today warned that a federal government shutdown would make it more difficult for the state to prevent and contain fires due of the furlough of thousands of Department of Interior (DOI) and Forest Service workers.

DOI is responsible for the management of federal lands, including National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and Bureau of Land Management public lands like federal campgrounds, visitors centers and concession services. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for the management of federal Forest Service land. In New Mexico, the USDA and DOI oversee six National Forests, as well as 16 other federal areas, including National Monuments, Parks, and Historic Trails. Together, the DOI and USDA manage more than 24 million acres of land in the State.

All National Forests and other federal outdoor and historic areas will be closed to the public in the event of a shutdown, although National Park firefighting services will be available on an emergency basis. Across the country, approximately 52,000 DOI employees – or more than 76 percent of total workers – will be furloughed. For the Forest Service, as many as 23,196 employees – or 81 percent – of workers could be affected.

But Udall noted that, even with such closures, New Mexico’s National Forests and other areas will be more vulnerable to wildfires – manmade or natural – because park and forest rangers and other federal officials won’t be there to patrol the land and report suspicious activity.

“The rangers and other federal workers on our federal lands are our eyes and ears on the ground when it comes to preventing and containing wildfires,” Udall said. “A government shutdown not only will mean that New Mexicans and visitors from across the country won’t be able to enjoy many of our special outdoor places. It will also mean that our National Forests will be more vulnerable to wildfire during a season that’s expected to be the most active in at least five years. That is unacceptable.”

More than 100,000 acres of land have already burned this year in New Mexico, and officials are expecting one of the worst fire seasons in recent years due to a dry winter and spring. Last month, the “Quail Ridge” fire near Silver City burned 1,800 acres of land – destroying 13 homes and dozens of other structures. And further east, the “White Fire” near Ruidoso has burned more than 10,000 acres and destroyed five homes. As of today, that fire was 75 percent contained. And in Socorro County, the “Sevilleta Fire” has burned approximately 2,700 acres and is 90 percent contained.

April is typically a very dry and windy month in New Mexico, and it is expected to be particularly windy this weekend – with wind advisories and red flag warnings already issued by the National Weather Service. A Fire Weather Watch remains in effect for the eastern plains, which forecasters say may evolve into a “significant, high-impact wind/fire weather event.”

The following federal areas are controlled by the Department of Interior. All visitors centers and recreation areas will be closed in the event of a government shutdown:

National Forests:

o Carson National Forest

o Cibola National Forest

o Gila National Forest

o Kiowa National Grassland

o Lincoln National Forest

o Santa Fe National Forest

Wildlife Refuges:

o Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)

o Bosque Del Apache NWR

o Grulla NWR

o Las Vegas NWR

o Maxwell NWR

o Sand Andres NWR

o Sevilleta NWR

The following federal areas are controlled by the National Park Service:

Aztec Ruins National Monument at Aztec

Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos

Capulin Volcano National Monument near Capulin

Carlsbad Caverns National Park near Carlsbad

Chaco Culture National Historical Park at Nageezi

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail

El Malpais National Monument in Grants

El Morro National Monument in Ramah

Fort Union National Monument at Watrous

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument near Silver City

Old Spanish National Historic Trail

Pecos National Historical Park in Pecos

Petroglyph National Monument near Albuquerque

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument at Mountainair

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo

Federal areas controlled by the Bureau of Land Management include (partial list):

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Histroic Trail

Black River Recreation Area

Pecos River Corridor Recreation Area

Dripping Springs Natural Area

Gila Lower Box Canyon

Kilbourne Hole Volcanic Crater

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Cebolla Wilderness

El Malpais National Conservation Area

White Mesa Bike Trails

Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

Socorro Nature Area

Rio Chama Wild and Scenic River

Sabinoso Wilderness

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