United States Forest Service Southwestern Region 3 P0 Box 110
Department of Agriculture, Carson National Forest Questa, NM 87556
Questa Ranger District Tel: 505-586-0520, 505-758-6230,FAX 505-586-0521
File Code: 1950/5150/2360
Date: ApriI 25, 2001
Questa and Lama
Wildland Urban Interface Project
Just a few short years ago, the Hondo Fire, and more recently the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos, brought home to each of us the devastating affects uncontrolled wildfire can have on our lives and our communities. The scope and intensity of the wild fires throughout the west this past season has emphasized the need for us to aggressively plan and implement treatment actions and strategies within our wildland urban interface (WUI) zones. This letter is to inform you of and request any comments or concerns you may have regarding a wildland urban interface project that is being planned for the National Forest lands from north of Lama to south of Questa.. The planning area for the Questa/Lama WIJI is approximately 5000 acres in size. The total linear distance proposed for fuelbréak treatments is approximately 12.5 miles. The area proposed for general thinning treatment within this planning area is approximately 1100 acres.
The intended purpose for this project is to reduce the risk of a wind driven crown fire moving from National Forest into the communities of Questa and Lama, or from those communities to National Forest lands. This risk can be reduced, although by no means eliminated, through vegetative treatments that would make it more difficult for a fire to leap into the tree crowns andor allow a crown fire to drop back to the ground, thus giving fire fighting personnel an opportunity to defend your homes and community.
The project area involves certain National Forest lands north of Lama to the southern boundaiy of Questa as shown on the attached map. The areas proposed for treatment have been separated into two types of treatments. The distinct areas are separated to facilitate describing the treatment actions proposed and subsequent purpose for these different areas as they relate to this WUI project.
The first area to describe are fuelbreaks, in some cases located adjacent to the communities of Questa and Lama. These areas are of particular importance as they serve as the immediate buffer between the National Forest and the private lands. Treating the vegetation in these areas can influence the behavior of a fire moving from the National Forest towards the private land, or from the private land to the National Forest and adjacent neighbors. In addition, fuelbreaks are displayed on the attached map along existing roads, the gas pipeline right~oft way, and existing natural or manmade openings in the forest. Where possible, the fuelbreaks adjacent to private lands and along roads have been interconnected to form continuous fuelbreaks.
Specifically, we are proposing to thin the trees in these fuelbreak areas to 30 to 50 foot spacing between tree crowns, with treatment occurring at widths of 50450 feet. The final spacing between individual trees and the width of the fttelbreak actually treated on the National Forest along our shared boundary will depend on the current vegetative conditions, slope steepness, and accessibility to any given area. Thinning will be achieved through personal use and forest products sales (such as firewood, vigas, wildlings) and precommercial thinning The vast majority, approximately 99% of all trees to be thinned are small, that is between 2 feet tall to 10 inches in diameter. A few occasional trees larger than 10 inches in diameter may be cut to create a more effective fuelbreak. The wood that is not collected for firewood or other forest products will be thinned and piled, and then the piles burned by Questa Ranger District fire personnel during the winter months.
The second area or treatment type to describe is general thinning and fuels reduction between the communities of Questa and Lama. This would include primarily thinning from below to reduce fuel ladders that permit ground fires to climb into the crowns of trees. Thinning will also eliminate continuous interconnected tree crowns reducing crown fire risk. In the areas of general thinning we are proposing tree crown spacing of 20 to 40 feet, retaining the largest, healthiest, and most fire resistant tree species when possible. Again, the vast majority, approximately 99% of all trees to be thinned are small, that is between 2 feet tall to 10 inches in diameter. The wood that is not collected for firewood or other forest products will be precommercial thinned, then lopped and scattered, or piled and burned by Questa Ranger District fire personnel during the winter months.
The primary objectives for our proposed treatment actions are:
Reduce ladder fuels and interconnected tree crowns, thereby decreasing crown fire risk.
Improve existing lines of defense (i.e. roads, gas lines, revegetated areas, etc.).
Increase the amount of time available for initial attack activities.
Slow down the rate of fire spread.
Connect treated areas to existing natural features.
Treat areas tint have the highest incidence of man-caused fires (i.e. next to roads).
Create fuelbreaks, firefighting lines of defense, providing additional protection and safety to private property, the residents, firefighting personnel and the forest.
Secondary benefits include:
Provide forest products to local communities.
Increase the abundance and diversity of native grasses, forbs, and shrubs.
Improve wildlife habitat.
Enhance watershed condition, reducing soil movement and sedimentation.
Because of the existing road network and other resource considerations (such as steep slopes) found in this area, new roads will not be constructed in conjunction with the proposed urban interface treatment actions. Also, broadcast prescribed fires will not be considered at this time due to the lack of existing control features in the area and community concerns.
We would appreciate your sharing with us any issues, concerns, or opportunities you would like us to consider during the environmental assessment process for this proposed wildland urban interface action. We will be holding a public meeting at the Village of Questa Council Chambers on May 23, 2001, starting at 7:00pm, to discuss the Questa/Lama WUI proposal, as well as explain and answer any questions you may have on our overall wildland urban interface program in the Lama, Questa, and Red River areas. If you cannot make the May 2jrd meeting, we would ask that you submit any written comments by May 30, 2001 so they can be considered at the start of our environmental analysis process. You can also call in your comments to District Fire Management Officer Paul Mondragon or me at 585-0520 or 758-6230. We look forward to hearing from you.
NOTE: Comments received in response to this letter, including names and addresses of those who comment, wilt be considered part of the public record and will be available for public inspection. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered; however, those who submit anonymous comments will not have standing to appeal the subsequent decision under 36 CFR parts 215 or 217. Additionally pursuant to 7 CFR 1.27 (d). any person may request the agency to withhold a submission from the public record by showing how the Freedom of lnfonnation Act (FOIA), permits such confidentially. Persons requesting such confidentiality should be aware that under the FOIA, confidentiality may be granted in only very limited circumstances, such as to
protect trade secrets. The Forest Service will inform the requester of the agencys decision regarding the request for confidentiality and, where the request is denied, the agency will return the submission and notifi the requester that the comments may be resubmitted with or without name and address within 10 days.