Rehabbing burned forest

Rehabbing burned forest

16 June 2011

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USA — Following April’s White Fire near Ruidoso, N.M. that scorched more than 10,000 acres, officials in Lincoln County are working fast to prevent monsoon floods.

Crews are working long hours using helicopters to drop more than 36,000 tons of straw mulch over more than two-thousand acres in the Lincoln National Forest. Officials hope the straw will protect sprouting vegetation and seeds. Crews are also dropping those from above, so they will grab onto the barren land and prevent it from sliding down the mountains and onto the towns of Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs.

“It will probably take two weeks from dawn to dusk and it’s a lot of work, load and return, load and return, said David Warnack, Smokey Bear District Ranger. “It’s a lot of work but I think the payoff will be worth it.”

He also said with July’s monsoons approaching flooding is eminent. He hopes crews can work fast to cover the ground in the National Forest before the moisture sets in. “There is nothing there to slow down the water or to soak it up, so we know that there is going to be some substantial flooding in different areas,” he added.

Multiple agencies, including The U.S. Forest Service, NM Department of Transportation, Lincoln County, and forestry crews have been working on this plan for the last two months. The $2 million project is federally funded. Warnack said as he watches helicopters make trip after trip they’re not only restoring the forest, but possibly saving lives. “I think we’re planning for the worst out here but we’re hoping for the best. We’re doing everything we can to respond to this burned area.”

Crews are only treating charred land in the Lincoln National Forest. Concrete barriers and sand bags will be provided through the county to help protect private property from floods and mudslides. The White Fire is human-caused and burned 5 homes. No word yet on how it started.

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