Cibola National Forest Planning Update

A new Land and Resource Management Plan for New Mexico’s Cibola National Forest is being enacted, and the public is encouraged to comment through November 7, 2019. What will the proposed changes mean for hunters and anglers?

The Cibola contains 1.6 million acres of forest and grasslands that sprawl clear into Texas and Oklahoma. But this vast swath of National Forest straddling 10 counties in central New Mexico has been operating under a management plan that was established during the Reagan years.

That is about to change—possibly. A newly revised forest plan has been drafted. Eventually, this Land and Resource Management Plan will be enacted as a guideline to manage forest resources balancing recreation with commerce.

As the Forest Service website states: Revisions to the Cibola’s 1985 Forest Plan are overdue, and a lot has changed on the Forest and in surrounding areas since then. Scientific understanding and technology have progressed, social and cultural influences and demands have changed, and stressors and threats to sustainability have increased. Some species have become rare and their persistence and viability are threatened.

Under the directive of a planning rule established in 2012, forest plans must be science-based, and require public involvement and collaboration. There are three phases to enacting a new forest plan: Assessment (a plan is created), Revision (the public is asked to weigh in at meetings or online) and Monitoring (implementation of the new plan).

Essentially, the draft currently under public review offers four alternatives:

Alternative A: leave the management plan as approved in 1985;

Alternative B: proposes place-based management areas and approximately 55,000 acres of recommended wilderness areas;

Alternative C: proposes conservation management areas and approximately 24,000 acres of recommended wilderness, decommissioning of roads in fragile riparian areas, and an overall emphasis on forest restoration with re-evaluation of how much timber can extracted under current environmental conditions; and

Alternative D: recommends approximately 200,000 acres of wilderness areas and emphasizes primitive recreation opportunities.

When NM BHA spoke to Forest Supervisor Steve Hattenbach and Forest Planner Sarah Browne, they urged BHA members to support Alternative C, stating that wilderness designation is a most contentious issue, and that timber extraction and fuelwood gathering are good for local communities and the forest itself. “The plan provides for a spectrum of recreational opportunities ranging from developed to primitive and backcountry.” Hattenbach said. It also emphasizes ecological restoration on an accelerated scale, which will benefit fish and wildlife habitat and provide resiliency in the face of drought and climate change, he added.

In addition to approximately 25,000 acres of recommended wilderness in prime hunting units, the USFS preferred alternative (Alternative C) includes three conservation management areas which emphasize primitive backcountry recreation opportunities.

You can look at the four proposed plans, and a see a calendar of public meetings here:

To comment online visit:



About David Cox

Avid better-lucky-than-good archery hunter. Also have GSPs and chase quail and grouse with limited success, see previous sentence. Love spending time on the water tossing flies as well. Blessed to live in New Mexico a literal stone's throw from public lan

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