During the past few years, 591 acres in the Burro Mountain Homestead (BMH) located southwest of Silver City were thinned through a partnership. “Gila Tree Thinners, NM State Forestry, private landowners, and the Gila National Forest accomplished thinning objectives of reducing risks and intensity of unwanted fires plus protecting life, property, and resources,” said Keith Matthes/ Project Manager & Fire Prevention Specialist with the Silver City Ranger District, Gila N.F..
The BMH Thinning Project was a sight to see with military style six-wheeled drive trucks slowly driving from the Burro Mountains through Silver City en route to Gila Wood Products in the Village of Santa Clara. A total of 60 trips transported 5 cords of 25-foot long ponderosa pine logs to the former N.M. biomass boiler at the Ft. Bayard Medical Center. Upon arrival at the boiler, the logs were chipped and eventually fed into the boiler to heat the former old medical facility.
Leroy Smith, Manager of Southwest Camper Ranches said, “Two-hundred fifty residents live in the BMH described by residents as a little bit of heaven. Ninety percent of us love the thinning work in the area; the openness, the sea of grass and the water in our wells.”
As Gila Tree Thinner owner Glenn Griffin looks back over the last few years, here is what was accomplished:
- Removal of 1,000 cords of mostly small diameter ponderosa pine wood
- Employment of local residents trained and certified in safety, forestry work, piling brush, felling trees and shredding the slash. Local Aldo High School students monitored the project to ensure compliance with forest prescriptions.
- Reducing intensity of wildfire in wildland urban interface (areas where homes are built near or among lands prone to wildland fire).
- Improving watershed, reducing soil erosion
- Improving wildlife habitat by promoting growth of grass and forbs (herbaceous flowering plants like a sunflower) for browsing of leaves, soft shoots, plants, etc.
- Raising the area’s water table through removal of dense stands of piñon and juniper trees
Funding was provided through a Collaborative Forest Restoration Program grant. Former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman sponsored the “Community Forest Restoration Act of 2000” with former U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici co-sponsoring it.