Santa Fe Fireshed

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The Santa Fe Fireshed

The Santa Fe Fireshed is an area of concern for the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, the Pueblo of Tesuque, the communities within and adjacent to its boundary, those who recreate and enjoy this majestic landscape, and the tourism and ecotourism economies that benefit from it. Forest and fire managers agree that this area is at great risk to high-severity wildfire due to over a century of fire suppression and other land use practices. Such an event would not only negatively affect the forested areas for decades, it would cause drastic erosion and flooding that would pose a serious hazard to human health and safety.

What is a Fireshed?

Wildfire moves across the land based on fuels, wind, and terrain and often moves in and out of drainages and watersheds. Wildfire operates at a large scale that connects the high country with downstream communities and resources. Because of these aspects, and in order to take steps to be adapted to wildfire, we need to think and act at the scale of a wildfire. A fireshed is an area where social and ecological concerns regarding wildfire overlap and are intertwined.

In 2004 the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station described a fireshed as, "large (thousands of acres) landscapes, delineated based on fire regime,condition class, fire history, fire hazard and risk, and potential wildland fire behavior. Fireshed assessment is an interdisciplinaryand collaborative process for designing and scheduling site-specific projects..."

Why do we need to think and act like a fireshed?

There are fire adapted ecosystems all around the world. Where ignitions (lightning) and dry climate overlap, ecologists find fire adapted vegetation. The southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains have a variety of different fire adapted ecosystems with physical evidence of wildfire dating back hundreds and thousands of years.

In 2014 the National Cohesive Wildland Strategy was released. It calls for safe and effective response to wildfire, restore and maintain resilient landscapes, and promote fire adapted communities. In December 2015 the New Mexico State Forester Tony Delfin and the City of Santa Fe Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg convened a meeting of municipal, county, state, federal, and non-profit partners to discuss the Santa Fe Fireshed. In January 2016, the Santa Fe City Council adopted the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Resolution. In February 2016 the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners adopted a Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Resolution as well.

The Santa Fe Fireshed is so big, what can be done?

  • Protect communities by mitigation activities in the wildland-urban interface. View an interactive map of home-site risk in the fireshed from the Wildfire Network. Promote fire adapted communities. Learn more at This includes mitigating fuels, assessing wildfire risk to structures, evacuation planning and drills, awareness, and education.
  • Develop a landscape strategy that uses a collaborative process to identify landscape priorities and values at-risk.
  • Conduct project planning at the landscape scale in high priority areas. On federal managed lands, this includes National Environmental Policy Act planning.
  • Make use of the suite of land management tools that fit the landscape. This can include strategic thinning, fuels modification through chipping and mastication, wood utilization where appropriate, and the use of fire to reduce fuels. The use of fire may include burning piles, broadcast burning of the forest understory to mimic natural fire regimes, or using wildfire for resource benefit when firefighter and public safety allow.

Where can I learn more about wildfire and forest ecology?

Partners are actively working on a restoration strategy for the Santa Fe Fireshed. This is a work space for the collaboration.

This coalition is supported by Promoting Ecosystem Resilience and Fire Adapted Communities Together, a cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy, USDA Forest Service and agencies of the Department of the Interior through a subaward to the Watershed Research and Training Center. 

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