Federal legislation seeks to improve reforestation efforts after fires

A New Mexico congresswoman hopes new legislation will improve fire recovery efforts following the most devastating wildfire in state history. U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, a Democrat representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District, to sponsored the Seedlings for Sustainable Habitat Restoration Act, which she said was prompted by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. She discussed […]

Federal legislation seeks to improve reforestation efforts after fires

A New Mexico congresswoman hopes new legislation will improve fire recovery efforts following the most devastating wildfire in state history.

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, a Democrat representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District, to sponsored the Seedlings for Sustainable Habitat Restoration Act, which she said was prompted by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire.

She discussed this legislation on Wednesday during a House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Federal Lands meeting.

Leger Fernández said that wildfires impact states across the west and will, in the future, impact the entire country.

“Following devastating wildfires, we have a desperate need for reforestation,” she said.

The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire charred more than 340,000 acres and was not the only fire burning at that time about two years ago.

To reforest the burn scar the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire left behind, Leger Fernández said land managers will need to plant 12 million seedlings.

The bipartisan infrastructure law allocated billions of dollars for reforestation and revegetation and required the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service to acquire and plant seedlings. However, Leger Fernández said, it did not provide funding to support the facilities needed to grow those seedlings nor did it fund the research needed to make sure the seedlings survive.

“Currently there is an inadequate supply of native seedlings and non-native seedlings procured from nurseries outside of the Southwest have only a 25 percent rate of survival,” she said. “In comparison when a locality grows their own seedlings, survival rates might be as high as 80 percent.”

She said her bill provides forest managers the ability to enter into contracts with state forestry agencies, local private or nonprofit entities, institutions of higher education and multi-state coalitions. Additionally, the legislation would make it clear that colleges and universities are eligible to receive reforestation grants.

“The urgency of reforestation and native seedling production cannot be overstated,” Leger Fernández said. “Our landscapes, communities and wildlife habitats continue to bear the scars of devastating wildfires.”

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