Government’s “Controlled Burn” Created an Environmental “Catastrophe”

(p. A1) Heavy monsoon rains would normally be cause for celebration in the drought-parched mountains of northeastern New Mexico, where the Rockies meet the Great Plains, especially after the largest wildfire in state history came within a mile of torching the region’s largest community this spring.

. . .

Instead of replenishing reservoirs, the downpours are flooding a burn scar left by the blaze known as the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire, releasing contaminants into private wells and overwhelming Las Vegas’s main water (p. A16) supply with ashy sludge.

It is the latest chapter in a catastrophe created by the federal government when Forest Service employees lost control of not just one but two prescribed burns set this spring to clear out undergrowth. That sparked a vast blaze that destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of people across a fire zone larger than the city of Los Angeles.

. . .

Mr. Trujillo, the mayor of Las Vegas, emphasized that the federal government, which was responsible for starting the fire, should cover the costs of securing the town’s water supply over both the short and long term. “We intend to bill them for every cent,” he said. “I’m having to hold their feet to the fire, no pun intended.”

For the full story, see:

Simon Romero. “A Controlled Burn Left Scars and a Water Crisis.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 27, 2022): A1 & A16.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Sept. 28, 2022, and has the title ‘How New Mexico’s Largest Wildfire Set Off a Drinking Water Crisis.” Where there are minor differences in wording between versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

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