Firewood permit sales halted in Carson, other New Mexico national forests

Federal district judge orders halt to timber management activities to assess owl habitat

By Staci Matlock
editor@taosnews.com
Posted 9/25/19

People who want to buy a permit to go cut dead and down trees for firewood, latillas or vigas in the Carson National Forest will have to wait.

A recent ruling by a federal district judge in a case …

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Firewood permit sales halted in Carson, other New Mexico national forests

Federal district judge orders halt to timber management activities to assess owl habitat

Posted

People who want to buy a permit to go cut dead and down trees for firewood, latillas or vigas in the Carson National Forest will have to wait.

A recent ruling by a federal district judge in a case seeking to protect habitat of the threatened Mexican spotted owl halted “timber management actions” in all five of New Mexico’s national forests and the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. The order is in effect immediately. 

“Since this does apply to the Carson National Forest, it means we cannot issue new firewood permits until further notice,” said Denise Ottaviano, public affairs officer for the Carson. “This does include all wood products including vigas and latillas.”

People can still obtain woodcutting permits from the Bureau of Land Management, said Ottaviano. “People can also go across the border into Colorado and get a permit to cut on the Río Grande National Forest,” she said.

Ottaviano said people with existing wood permits can still go get firewood, “but that may change so we recommend people get their wood as soon as possible. We have no idea how long this will last.”

Other recreational forest activities continue as usual and are not affected by the order.

The ruling also stops forest thinning and prescribed burn projects slated by the Forest Service to reduce the density of trees and reduce the potential for large, devastating wildfires. 

The ruling occurred in a case filed by the nonprofit environmental group WildEarth Guardians against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins of the federal district court in Tucson, Arizona, said the agency had not done enough to protect the owl’s habitat. As part of the ruling, he ordered timber activities in six Southwestern national forests to halt. 

Regional forester Cal Joyner of the Forest Service said in statement Monday that the agency didn’t think the five national forests in New Mexico fell under the ruling and has requested clarification from the court.

But in the meantime, timber projects and wood permits are on hold, he said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004 designated 8.6 million acres of federal lands in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah as critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl.

WildEarth Guardians Executive Director John Horning said in an email to the Santa Fe New Mexican that "this decision is about agency accountability, to the public and to the recovery of the Mexican spotted owl. With this decision, the agencies will finally be held accountable for ensuring that all forest management practices help, not hinder, owl recovery."

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