On May 19, the United States Forest Service issued a Stage 3 forest closure for the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands, in effect until July 18 or until rescinded. The closure comes in response to the high fire danger in the forest and grasslands in a continued effort to combat and prevent wildfires across the state.
“The primary reason for the Stage 3 forest closure is to protect human life, property and natural resources. Fire danger remains extreme with record conditions,” Cibola National Forest public affairs officer Patricia Johnson said.
As of today, several national forests in the state have been fully shut down, including the Lincoln National Forest, Santa Fe National Forest, Gila National Forest and Carson National Forest, according to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Cibola National Forest has some areas and trails that remain open with restrictions, including the Magdalena Ranger District and the Sandia Peak Tramway, according to the US Forest Service. The tramway is restricted to the observation deck with the forest at the top being closed.
There are exemptions in place for the current order which include individuals with written consent authorized by the Forest Service, firefighters and other officers for official duty with permission from the district ranger, along with any residents that need to access their private properties, according to the Forest Service.
Johnson said that the restrictions are temporary and that adequate weather conditions could lead to the order being rescinded sooner than the July 18 end date.
“This temporary closure will stay in effect until July 18 or until sufficient precipitation is received to adequately reduce the risk of wildfire, and hot, dry weather conditions are no longer forecast to continue. Conditions will be re-evaluated regularly during this time period,” Johnson said.
The recent closure begs the question of the economic impact that these preventative measures will have on the state. Alexandra Navas, the director of the Outdoor Recreation Division of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, said that while there will be an impact on industries involved in outdoor recreation, they are doing their best to provide them with resources and support.
“I'm trying to communicate what those disaster preparedness resources are, be they loans, grants or even insurance policies, proactive insurance policies,” Navas said.
These loans and grants are aimed to help businesses recover from financial loss or physical damage due to wildfires, according to Navas.
“If your business loses a structure, there's grants out there that can help replace that and then there's loans out there as well with really low interest rates that are geared towards businesses that have experienced physical or economic loss,” Navas said.
Ultimately, though, the state and businesses need to make long-term plans, as climate change will continue to create more drastic fire years, according to Navas.
“We want to make sure that everyone understands the criteria around the forest closures, that that's really clearly communicated, and that we can support businesses as well as possible during these emergency times, but communicating that this is going to continue that it's an extraordinary fire year, but you're gonna continue to see years like this, understanding those impacts,” Navas said.
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Businesses can find more information regarding the Outdoor Recreation Department and their work on their website or call directly at (505) 660-5992.
Alizay Chavez is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChavezAlizay
Madeline Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite.