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Department of Interior Interagency Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team Creates Post-Wildfire Recovery Plans for Tribes Affected by the Cerro Pelado Fire

Date Published: Jun 2022
Author: Lessa Peter
Wayne Waquiu, BAER Team Forester, discusses the impacts of the Cerro Pelado fire on the Tribe's timber resource with Pueblo of Jemez' natural resources staff members.

Wayne Waquiu, BAER Team Forester, discusses the impacts of the Cerro Pelado fire on the Tribe's timber resource with Pueblo of Jemez' natural resources staff members.

The Cerro Pelado fire ignited on April 22, 2022, approximately seven miles east of Jemez Springs and moved east, north, and south affecting Valles Caldera lands on the north and Pueblo lands to the east and south in addition to USFS lands in New Mexico. The fire burned 45,605 acres, impacting multiple jurisdictions including private lands and lands managed by U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. The fire moved through Tribal trust areas, affecting 3,274 acres of Pueblo of Jemez land, 29 acres of Pueblo of Santo Domingo land and 830 acres of Pueblo de Cochiti land.

On May 26, a Department of Interior Interagency Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team was brought in to evaluate soil burn severity and post-wildfire threats to human life, safety, and property as well as critical natural and cultural resources, important to each Pueblo. This interdisciplinary team engaged with Tribal leadership and staff to develop a collective system of emergency treatments to reduce flooding, debris flow and erosion threats to critical values. The BAER watershed response group assisted forestry, wildlife, and cultural resource specialists with on-the-ground assessments to evaluate these risks. The BAER team also coordinated information with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) BAER team who conducted similar work on USFS land.

The Team developed burned area rehabilitation (BAR) treatments to initiate the path to long-term recovery and highlighted the opportunity for Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to continue ecological restoration and recovery of burned lands including both Tribal and National Park Service lands. The BAER Team engaged representatives from each Pueblo in a close-out meeting to communicate their findings and provided detailed treatment plans for the tribes the week of June 5. A meeting with the Southern Pueblo Agency superintendent also took place to provide an executive summary of findings.

In total, proposed emergency stabilization (ES) treatment funds includes $200,000 for spring and cultural site protections, road stabilization, flood warning systems, and point protection and armoring. BAR treatments include $1.1 million for reforestation, invasive and noxious weed treatments, and replacement/repair of resource protection and boundary fences.

Program Area: Post-Wildfire Recovery

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