July 15, 2017

After the wildfire

Laura Paskus

Antony Lostetter filming for the first episode of "Our Land."

This month, I started working on a new project with New Mexico in Focus. Each month, we’ll explore a different issue on “Our Land: New Mexico’s Environmental Past, Present and Future.” The first show aired last night on New Mexico PBS/KNME-TV and was loosely based around reporting I had done earlier this year in partnership with NM Political Report and the Santa Fe Reporter.

Related story: The Heart of Darkness

Laura Paskus

Anthony Rodriguez with New Mexico In Focus prepares to launch a drone to film the landscape in the Jemez Mountains

In the first episode of “Our Land,” we visited with Jeremy Sweat, the Chief of Resource Management at Bandelier National Monument and Collin Haffey, a resource ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey to learn about how forests are, and are not, recovering six years after Las Conchas Fire burned 156,000 acres in the Jemez Mountains. You can watch the full video of the segment below.

Haffey brought the crew out to a 30,000 acre area where Las Conchas burned so intensely that in many places, there are essentially no living trees left, and no seed sources for regeneration.

Laura Paskus

Collin Haffey and Sarah Gustavus, producer of New Mexico In Focus on New Mexico PBS/KNME-TV

But this isn’t a story without hope. Both Sweat and Haffey spoke about the need to look forward and understand the forest systems we do have, especially as the region warms. Both also emphasized that even if you don’t live anywhere near the Jemez Mountains, there are downstream impacts—and lessons to be learned about the future of southwestern forests.

I’ve been covering environmental issues in New Mexico for more than 15 years, and am always delighted by how much more there is to learn about our landscapes and our communities. Working with the crew at New Mexico In Focus, including Sarah Gustavus, Antony Lostetter and Anthony Rodriguez, is also a really exciting experience—and not only because Rodriguez brings a drone along on our excursions and offers amazing bird’s-eye views of the places we’re reporting from across the state.

We’ll keep you updated on the upcoming episodes. You can also bookmark the show’s website and like Our Land’s Facebook page.