Forest Planning in Full Swing for New Mexico's Cibola National Forest

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

The Cibola is made up of 1.6 million acres of forest, and grasslands that sprawl clear into Texas and Oklahoma. And this vast swath of National Forest straddling 10 counties in the central part of the Land of Enchantment has been operating under a management plan that was established during the Reagan years.

But that is about to change. The newly revised forest plan has been drafted. 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 collaborate. There are three phases to enacting a new forest plan: Assessment: a plan is created, Revision: the public is asked to weigh in during a series of meetings, or via the web, and finally Monitoring, or implementation of the new plan.

Essentially, the draft that is under public review now has four choices: A: leave it as is and continue under the 1985 guidelines, B: scale back the amount of wilderness areas, C: increase wilderness and conservation areas, 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, or D: basically not doing any restoration, and turning more than 200,000 into wilderness area, up from the existing 138,000.

When I spoke to Forest Supervisor Steve Hattenbach and Forest Panner Sarah Browne they urged BHA members to support Plan 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, ““The plan emphasizes ecological restoration on an accelerated scale—which will benefit fish and wildlife habitat and provides resiliency in the face of drought and climate change." In addition to approximately 25,000 acres of recommended wilderness in prime hunting units, this preferred alternative (Plan C) includes three conservation management areas which emphasize primitive backcountry recreation opportunities.

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

To comment online visit:


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