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Public News Service-NM: April 5, 2011
Rare Chance to Speak Up about National Forests

Original Post:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – If you are an outdoor enthusiast or make a living off the land, this week brings a once-in-a-generation chance to make an impact on New Mexico’s national forests. A public discussion Tuesday in Albuquerque is to cover a proposed update of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The governing rule for how a Forest Service ranger district manages its land has gathered some serious dust: it’s been in place for well over a generation.

The Obama Administration has proposed an update to the NFMA, and conservation groups say that’s a good idea, but they don’t think the proposal will go far enough to protect forest land over the next 30 years. Nathan Newcomer, associate director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, calls New Mexico the birthplace of wilderness, but he says the state ranks dead last for its amount of protected public land. He thinks the new rule is too vague, and leaves too much discretion to local forest managers. “And while that can be good in some instances, in other instances it may not be very good, depending on who the person is that’s in charge of that regional forest district. So, we’d like to see more protections in terms of, like, the teeth – really making it more real.”

Newcomer says the rule needs to be more precise about how to protect wildlife and watershed resources, including requiring wilderness inventories. He says New Mexico has nine million acres of National Forest land, but very little of it is designated as wilderness. He says the current rule hasn’t been updated since 1982, and now is the time to be more proactive on how we protect our land. “And take into consideration things like global warming, climate change and just the ever-increasing population. If we’re going to have another rule in place for, I would presume for 25 or 30 more years down the road, we need to be prepared for that, and we need to have the best rule in place.”

Public comments can be made in writing at www.govcomments.com through May 16. The Forest Service says it will use the comments to develop and publish a final rule later this year.

Planning Rule Public Forums are Tuesday, April 5 at 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., at the Marriott, 2101 Louisiana Boulevard NE, Albuquerque. Laura Thornquist, Public News Service – NM

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