Ethan, thank you for the excellent writing (including HCN).

Here in the East, we hear sirens on the nearby interstate highway. The daily number has seemed to increase, unofficially. We have never seen "a truck full of hotshots" and "a pair of airtankers speeding east." Thank goodness. The anxiety created from such scenarios must be considerable.

Just finished reading the text and comments of the following.

Wildfire, residents' fury facing Biden on New Mexico visit


You are on the ground in New Mexico. Perhaps you can help me better understand the situation. Apparently federal officials allowed planned burns to spread out of control.

A commentor suggests the Forest Service's ultimate goal is "rewilding" of the west - removal of humanity. The agency has closed/decommissioned the roads needed to manage these lands properly. Is the commentor correct with regards to "rewilding" the west?

Thanks for your time, awaiting your reply.

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Hello! Thanks for reading, and for your comment. I don't think the USFS has any such goal, outside of very specific restoration / wildlife reintroduction projects.

In New Mexico, local anger against the feds has deep roots. Hispano communities throughout the region saw much of the territory given to them as Spanish land grants become National Forest, leading to heated and occasional violent disputes over traditional subsistence and economic use ("Understories" by Jake Kosek is a good history of this). In particular, there is animosity against the Forest Service for restricting firewood harvesting and grazing while approving out-of-state logging by commercial interests—if locals were allowed to continue accessing their land, the argument goes, fire risk would be much reduced.

Regardless of whether that's the case, it's clear that prescribed burns are absolutely necessary, the risk of escape is low relative to the many other possible sources of manmade ignition, and USFS struggles with budget cuts and staffing shortages while many of its employees struggle to do their best in an imperfect system. The Hermits Peak / Calf Canyon fires were a perfect storm of climate change, a century of misguided fire suppression, bureaucratic failure, and bad luck that ended in tragedy.

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Great piece, Ethan. I can't help think of the beauty of those forests that are burning -- many of them were healthy and moist, with great bird diversity (~70 breeding bird species). All we can do is hope for survival of as many of the larger trees as possible... though I fear the worst.

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