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June 2024

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County & state officials hope to raise awareness on fire safety

Representatives from the Taos County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), the Taos Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Taos County Forest & Watershed Health addressed the May 9 Village of Questa (VOQ) Council meeting on the importance of preparing municipalities for threats of wildfires, especially during northern New Mexico’s dry spring season. Partnerships have been made between Taos County, the Taos Soil & Water Conservation District and various state agencies to help prepare private citizens for the fire season every year and the County hopes to place more focus on its northern regions like Questa.

The Taos County Soil & Water Conservation District in particular is working with private landowners assisting in fire defense tactics such as forest thinning and creating what is called “defensible space” around homes.

Tanya Duncan with the Taos Soil & Water Conservation noted, “This last year, because of the fire we had over in Las Vegas, we’ve gotten over 100 applications — normally I get 25-30 — and almost half of them are from up here, up north, so we’re trying to figure out how we can fund a lot of these projects that we have for these desperate and scared land owners who want help and they need help…. We’re hoping the Village of Questa can be a fiscal sponsor.”

According to Duncan, the going rate for a typical forest thinning project is between $2,000 and $3,000 per acre.

“We are at an unusual time right now when northern New Mexico is the target of a fire hose of funding,” said J.R. Logan with the Taos County Forest & Watershed Health program. “Not just from the Forest Service and other federal agencies, but also from the State of New Mexico. And that overlap of state and federal funding means we’re in a unique position to take advantage of the resources available to protect the mountain, to protect the communities.”

Logan explained how, historically, fire preparation has been focused on the southern end of Taos valley and the Peñasco valley with the northern part of the county not seeing proper management.
“The people of Questa know that these forests need to be maintained and they know that they haven’t been for quite a long time,” lamented Logan. “This pitch that we’re making this evening is a request to this Village Council to become involved in this work, not just for the benefit of your constituents, but for the benefit of all of us collectively. We need your help, this is an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ situation.”

The Taos County CWPP “seeks to build fire resilient communities, forests and watersheds through collaboration with all community stakeholders and partners.” The CWPP’s most recent operational update can be viewed at the official website for Taos County.