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Forest Regulations and Best Management Practices (BMP)

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Forest Regulations

Starting in 1939, New Mexico’s Legislature recognized that the application of poor harvesting practices on private lands created long term impacts on our water quality, wildlife, and the economic stability of surrounding communities. The results of poor practices were large destructive wildfires, epidemic insect infestations, and sedimentation of streams and lakes.

In 1970, the state replaced the 1939 statute with the first regulation. This regulation, as revised in 2002 (19.20.4 NMAC), is intended to set minimum standards for the treatment of slash, utilization of felled trees, and stabilization of roads and skid trails. This reduces the hazard of wildland fires, insect epidemic, soil erosion, sedimentation of streams and lands, and the perpetuation of productive forests.

In many cases, these minimum requirements open the door for the New Mexico Forestry Division to provide technical assistance and education to private landowners. By regulating a small number of basic practices, the state is seeking to protect the rights of its citizens at large and the rights of individual private forest landowners.

The state also chose the voluntary approach when it developed the statewide water quality plan in 1979. In the plan, Best Management Practices (BMPs) were identified as practices that would be voluntarily applied to maintain the state’s water quality. By applying the silvicultural BMPs, where appropriate, forest landowners remove the federal requirement for a Federal 404 permit when they apply practices in or near streams and rivers.

Regulation Requirements Summary
The regulations apply to all persons, associations, corporations, and other legal and governmental entities engaged in harvest activities on private, non-municipal or non-federal lands. Landowners who wish to harvest in an area of twenty-five (25) acres or more, or in a combination of areas totaling twenty-five (25) acres or more in a calendar year, need to apply with the Forestry Division for a harvest permit.

Application for Harvest Permit
The applicant is required to provide the following information to the Forestry Division in order to be issued a permit:

  • the name(s) and address of the legal property owner(s) and purchaser
  • a legal description of the land on which the harvesting will occur
  • a topographic map which indicates the number of cutting units, which have to be 300 acres or less, and indicate the main haul roads
  • a time schedule of beginning and ending dates for harvesting
  • a forest regeneration plan that includes the type of harvesting system and how the forest stands will be regenerated
  • method of harvesting
  • treatment of skid trails and slash on excessive slope.

Required Harvesting Practices
The regulations require minimum forest practice standards which include:

  • the treatment of slash to 3 feet or less to reduce fire danger and insect infestation
  • creation of water bars on all haul roads and skid trails to reduce erosion
  • reseeding disturbed areas in order to stabilize them and reduce erosion
  • tree utilization standards that reduce insect damage and fire hazard and insure that the landowner receives economic benefit for those trees that are felled.

An applicant may propose alternate practices in lieu of the requirements set forth in the regulations. The Forestry Division may approve the use of alternate practices if they exemplify good forest conservation practices and offer equivalent or better protection regarding fire, pest, and erosion control.

Forest Conservation Regulations (PDF)

Best Management Practices (BMP)

New Mexico’s forests provide beauty, raw material for lumber production, clean air, habitat, and food for many kinds of wildlife, storage for water, and areas for grazing and recreation. With proper management, forest landowners can enjoy these benefits and maintain a healthy forest.

If you work in the forest, own forest land, or are interested in New Mexico’s forests, the Best Management Practice (BMP) guidelines offer an understanding of why these practices are beneficial, along with common-sense tips that will address most situations a landowner may encounter that will mitigate harmful effects resulting from forest treatment of management actions.

By recognizing private property rights and the diversity of landowner goals, the Forestry Division provides a Forest Practice Guideline document detailing the commercial harvest requirements and practices intended to help the private landowner meet their objectives while adequately protecting or improving watersheds statewide.

Forest Practices Guidelines (PDF)