Earth Notes - Forest Restoration

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: New Mexico Forest Restoration

Jobs are scarce in the rural West, particularly in mountain villages traditionally dependent on forest work. In New Mexico, one bright spot is the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program run by the National Forest Service.

The program supports small-scale, local projects that link environmental and economic health. Over the past decade it has funded more than 100 projects in 17 counties, many of them in areas with large numbers of low-income Native Americans and Hispanics.

A case in point is the Borrego Mesa project, where workers selectively harvest trees used for firewood, flooring, fence posts, and the building of log cabins. Based an hour north of Santa Fe, Aspen Forest Products is enhancing the health of 400 fire-scarred acres by removing deadwood and thinning trees in unnaturally dense stands.

In addition, project director David C rdova is making a series of documentary videos about appropriate forest management. C rdova's films will show how workers from his home village of Truchas are cutting trees not randomly, but in a way that sustains both a healthy ecosystem and a resource-based economy.

Cordova says the approach is like gardening. His project relies both on current science and on hard-won wisdom shared by nine generations of family woodcutters.

The moviemaking will create 14 temporary positions to go with nine seasonal jobs for forest workers. And it will assure that the lessons learned will have an impact on much more than one 400-acre tract.

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-Richard Mahler