Forest and Watershed Health Plan

Frequently Asked Questions

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Why does New Mexico need a Forest and Watershed Health Plan? 

The New Mexico Forest and Watershed Health Plan is in response to the conclusion that many of New Mexico’s ecosystems are in an unhealthy state.  The Plan was initiated in late 2003 at the request of Governor Bill Richardson and the New Mexico State Legislature for the development and implementation of a strategic plan to address issues and needs that will maintain and improve our environment.

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Under what authority was the plan developed?

House Bill 910, sponsored by Representative Tripp, was passed during the 2003 New Mexico State Legislative Session.  HB 910 mandated the creation of a comprehensive watershed restoration plan and focused on the removal of non-native vegetation from forested areas. After an extensive collaborative effort, Governor Richardson signed the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Health Plan into effect in March 2005. 

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Why was the Forestry Division asked to facilitate the planning process and Plan implementation?

The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department's (EMNRD) Forestry Division, overseen by Cabinet Secretary Joanna Prukop, serves as the facilitator of this important effort. The State Forestry Division, overseen by State Forester Butch Blazer, has statutory responsibility to work with federal, state and private landowners on their forested lands to enhance wildlife habitat, increase water yield, and reduce the hazard of insect infestation, diseases or fire.  Our Forest and Watershed Health Plan partners view the State Forestry Division as an effective, knowledgeable and neutral convener of the Plan’s development and implementation process and support this decision.

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What other agencies were involved in creating the Plan?

There are many local, state, federal and tribal government entities that are involved in and responsible for the management of public, tribal and private lands in the State of New Mexico. There are also a variety of public interest groups and others whose input is essential in representing the diversity of interests in the state’s land management process. The Forest and Watershed Health Plan planning and implementation process involved, and continues to involve, representatives from these diverse stakeholder groups, which include USDA Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, New Mexico's Native American Tribal Governments, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, NM State Land Office, NM State University, NM Soil and Water Conservation Districts, NM Watershed Coalition, NM Association of Counties, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, The Forest Guild, Center for Biological Diversity, URS Corporation, and Western Governor’s Association.  For a complete list of Planning Committee Members, go to the Planning Committee page on the NM FWHP website.

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How was public input included in the Plan?

During the planning process, a series of public meetings took place across New Mexico beginning in 2004.  The Plan is the product of work by more than 400 people who contributed their time and expertise to the collaborative planning effort.

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Why are New Mexico's forests unhealthy?

Past and current weather patterns, including periods of extended rainfall followed by drought and high temperatures, coupled with past wildfire suppression policies have contributed to overly-dense woody vegetation, a degradation of biodiversity, fragmentation and deterioration of wildlife habitat.  These problems result in compromised watersheds and unhealthy forests with an increased susceptibility to insect and disease infestation and wildfire.

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What is the National Fire Plan?

 "The National Fire Plan is a long-term investment that will help protect communities and natural resources, and most importantly, the lives of firefighters and the public. It is a long-term commitment based on cooperation and communication among federal agencies, states, local governments, tribes and interested publics." -- From the National Fire Plan.

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How will the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Health Plan work within the National Fire Plan and other initiatives such as the 10-year Comprehensive Strategy, and the Western Governors Association's (WGA) Implementation Plan?

The New Mexico Forest and Watershed Health Plan incorporates issues and strategic elements of the National Fire Plan and the WGA's Implementation Plan. Accomplishments under the Forest and Watershed Health Plan will also be accomplishments in these initiatives.  Furthermore, the New Mexico Non-Native Phreatophyte/Watershed Management Plan and the New Mexico Forest and Restoration Institute provide tools to implement these initiatives.  These plans and initiatives are designed to work together toward the same goal of improved forest and watershed health, including enhanced wildlife habitat and reduced susceptibility to pathogens and wildfire, and reduced wildfire risk to communities.

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How will the Forest Health and Watershed Plan benefit the state and New Mexicans?

The New Mexico Forest and Watershed Health Plan recommends the creation of a collaborative framework for multi-stakeholder and agency cooperation for the ecological improvement of forests and watersheds.  The Plan also makes it easier to identify potential improvement projects and streamline project funding. Overall, the Plan makes 20 recommendations that will transform the way ecological restoration is accomplished in New Mexico by strengthening on-the-ground efforts, eliminating unnecessary barriers to this work and, in the end, realizing much greater impact for the dollars invested.  New Mexicans will benefit by the overall improved forest and watershed health, resulting in reduced wildfire hazards and increased water quality.

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How long will it take to implement the Plan?

The Forest and Watershed Health Plan is designed to be a living, dynamic document to effectively meet the needs of the people and the State of New Mexico.  The Plan’s implementation will be overseen by a Forest and Watershed Health Coordinator and Advisory Group, comprised of high-level representatives of all stakeholders, who will advise and provide direction, coordination and revision of the Plan as needed.  The implementation of the Plan’s recommendations will take place over a period of decades to achieve the ultimate goal of ecological health for our forests and watersheds.

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Now that the Plan has been developed, what will happen next?

The New Mexico State Forestry Division has stepped forward to oversee implementation of the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Health Plan.  A Forest and Watershed Health Coordinator and three other positions are being filled to begin the process.  Work strategies and teams will be developed, along with an Advisory Group, to implement the 20 recommendations.  The implementation of the Plan’s recommendations is a long-term commitment.  This will continue to be a collaborative effort with federal, state, local and tribal governments, private landowners, business, public interest groups and academia toward the ultimate goal of ecological restoration for New Mexico’s forests and watersheds.

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