Forest & Watershed Restoration Thinning Project work near Ruidoso targeted to begin in October

RUIDOSO, NM, September 29, 2016.  Residents adjacent to the Lincoln National Forest in the Ruidoso area may hear the sound of chainsaws running during daytime hours and may see crews entering and leaving thinning projects via access points in and near the community. Work will begin on the Gavilan Forest Restoration and Rio Ruidoso Watershed Protection projects in October.  The thinning progress will be inspected regularly by Smokey Bear District personnel to ensure the work is being done in accordance with the contract specifications, which includes the thinning prescription.  As with all other projects, emphasis will be placed on safety of the public and workers. If any issues or concerns arise, there are provisions that allow and encourage practical and timely resolution.  Once thinning and hand-piling of slash is complete, firefighters will begin prescribed burning operations to eliminate the piles, as favorable conditions allow.

Gavilan Forest Restoration Project on Forest Service-managed lands above residences in Gavilan Canyon, from Warrior Drive to Eagle Creek road, is scheduled to begin the first week of October. This area has been threatened and impacted by several wildfires in recent years:  2000 Cree Fire, 2001 Homestead Fire, 2011 White Fire and the 2016 Moon Mountain Fire.  This project also ties in with several other forest thinning treatments that have been planned and/or implemented by the Village of Ruidoso, New Mexico State Forestry, and New Mexico State Lands Office and the Lincoln National Forest.  The project area consists of 625 acres that will be thinned by a contract thinning crew with the expectation to complete the project by early summer (2017), provided favorable weather conditions are present.  The thinning crew will have a full year from the start date to complete the project, if needed.  An additional 46 acres adjacent to the contracted unit has been started by fire crews this past summer and will continue being thinned in October by the Veterans Fire Corps – a partnership between the Forest Service and Arizona Conservation Corps that seeks to recruit, train and assist in developing military veterans for a career in a land management agency.

Rio Ruidoso Watershed Protection Project on Forest Service-managed lands, southwest of Grindstone Lake, will also begin in October. The project area, 366 acres, will be thinned by local contractors in a similar fashion to the Gavilan project.  The project area is close to residents of Black Forest.  The project also surrounds many portions of the new Grindstone mountain bike and recreation trail system.  Thinning crews will take special precautions in these areas to be aware of the public recreating on the trail system and will adjust work days to avoid scheduled mountain bike and trail running events.  Although the thinning is taking place on Forest Service-managed lands, the project has been collaboratively planned with New Mexico State Forestry and the contracted thinning portion is funded with New Mexico State funds.  This partnership seeks to improve forested lands that lie in priority watershed–that are critical to communities as well as the ecosystem.  The intent is to make the area more resilient to negative effects of high intensity wildfires.  This project also builds off of years of work by Village of Ruidoso defensible space thinning, Mescalero Apache Reservation vegetation treatments and other Lincoln National Forest Wildland Urban Interface projects.

For further information on the Gavilan Forest Restoration and Rio Ruidoso Watershed Protection projects, contact the Smokey Bear District Fuels Specialist by mail or in person at 901 Mechem Drive, Ruidoso, NM 88345 or call 575-630-3031.

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