District III – Socorro
The Socorro District covers more than 8.9 million acres of state and private land in the southwest corner of New Mexico. It includes the seven counties of Catron, Dona Ana, Grant, Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra, and Socorro. The main office is located just west of Socorro on Highway 60 toward Magdalena. The Socorro District satellite office is located on North Silver Street in Silver City.
One of the priorities for the Socorro District is providing technical forest management assistance to private landowners. This includes the Stewardship Program, the Forest Health and Insect Program, and assisting the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service with forest stand and wildlife improvement projects. Other collaborative efforts include working with county teams, fire departments, and communities on fire suppression initiatives. District staff also lead or assist on forest management practices and natural resource planning, like the Jornada and Black Range Resource Conservation and Development Programs. The district’s forest and watershed health continues to be the focus of many ongoing projects, as does the development of community forestry and conservation, including involvement in programs like Tree City USA and Conservation Days.
JAMES ANZALONE is the Socorro District Forester. James joined the Forestry Division in 2021 and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in natural resources and wildland fire. His background includes work with the USDA Forest Service as the Albuquerque Interagency Dispatch Center Manager, wildland firefighter, and helicopter crew member. James’ formal education is in Natural Resource Management. James is the Socorro District Regional Coordinator for Firewise Communities in Catron, Dona Ana, Sierra, and Socorro Counties.
ANDY LOPEZ joined the Forestry Division in 2022 as the Socorro District Fire Management Officer (FMO). He was born and raised in Magdalena and brings more than 20 years of wildland fire experience to the Division, including experience as an engine crew member, engine captain, incident commander, and fire operations specialist with the USDA Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and multiple Incident Management Teams. Andy also has extensive experience training and mentoring in prescribed fire and fuels management. The district FMO assists landowners and communities with wildland urban interface planning, educates homeowners on the importance of defensible space, manages wildland fire response, and ensures local volunteer fire departments have the equipment they need.
EUGENIO PADILLA is the Special Projects Forester (Project and Urban Forester) for the Socorro District, who joined the team in May of 2023. Eugenio is a New Mexico native born and raised in Carnuel, NM. He received a forestry degree from New Mexico Highlands University in 2021. In his position, Eugenio is tasked with forest management, urban and community forestry program projects. He will provide technical guidance and educational outreach to Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) communities, as well as write stewardships, conduct inventory inspections and provide technical assistance to landowners/managers.
FRED KLOEPPEL is a Project Forester in Socorro District. He was born and raised in Belen, New Mexico. Fred graduated with an Associate degree from the University of New Mexico in 2020 where he was a member of the Northern New Mexico Climate Change Corps for 3 years. He comes to us with 20 plus years of experience as a tree specialist working for and managing his family-owned tree care business. In his position he will implement multiple forestry programs, advise state and private cooperators on best forest practices to meet landowner objectives, implement federal cost-share programs, provide stewardship program guidance, and assist partner agencies. He is especially excited to work on projects mitigating invasive species in the Rio Grande Valley.
TOM ZEGLER is the Special Projects Forester at the Silver City satellite office. Tom began his forestry career in 2006, earned a Master of Science in Forestry from Northern Arizona University in 2011, and joined NMSF in 2014. He performs site visits on state and private lands, writes multi-resource management plans for land managers and property owners, manages thinning projects for a variety assistance programs, and delivers conservation education messages and technical presentations to students and the general public. During the fire season, he is a dispatcher for Silver City Interagency Dispatch Center. Tom has a strong technical background in forest health and tree mortality; he knows the insects and diseases that kill trees. His main goal is to sharpen the axe of traditional silviculture with sound forest ecology and wield it to improve the health of southwestern forests. Tom is the Socorro District Regional Coordinator for Firewise Communities in Grant, Luna, and Hidalgo Counties.
SARAH BALDONADO is the Business Operations Specialist -Administrative Management Officer for the Socorro District. Sarah joined the Forestry Division in September of 2023. She manages all the business operations for the district, including procurement, budgeting, purchasing, and timekeeping for Socorro District.