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SHORT TITLE NMSU Range Task Force Timber Harvest Study
SB 476
ANALYST Williams
APPROPRIATION (dollars in thousands)
or Non-Rec
$50.0 Non-Recurring
General Fund
(Parenthesis ( ) Indicate Expenditure Decreases)
Duplicates HB 565
Related to General Appropriation Act appropriations to NMSU Agricultural Experiment Station
LFC Files
Responses Received From
Higher Education Department (HED)
Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD),
State Forestry
New Mexico State University (NMSU)
Synopsis of Bill
Senate Bill 476 appropriates $50,000 from the General Fund to the Board of Regents of New
Mexico State University for the purpose of research by the Range Improvement Task Force on
the impact and unintended consequences of revised commercial timber harvesting requirements.
The appropriation of $50.0 thousand contained in this bill is a non-recurring expense to the
general fund. Any unexpended or unencumbered balance remaining at the end of FY 09 shall
revert to the general fund.
Senate Bill 476 – Page
While research activities would typically be considered recurring, NMSU states “the Range
Improvement Task Force (RITF) will … produce a report within one year analyzing the impacts
and effects of revisions to timber harvesting regulations." Therefore, this bill is shown as
making a non-recurring appropriation.
This proposed funding was not submitted as an expansion proposal by NMSU to the HED for
consideration in fall 2007, and was not included in the Department’s funding recommendation
for FY09. NMSU notes “the RITF did not solicit this support… the request is being made by
stakeholders and producers …who wish to initiate a review of recent revisions to NM State
Forestry timber harvesting regulations. There is a concern that these revisions will limit
restoration activities in woodland habitats throughout the state."
EMNRD notes “The Forest Conservation Act, NMSA 1978, Sections 68-2-1 to 68-2-28 (Laws
1959, Chapter 122) was initially adopted in 1959. NMSA 1978, Section 68-2-15 authorizes the
Forestry Division (Division) to make and enforce rules necessary for the prevention and
suppression of forest fires and for the control of forest pests and the application of commercial
forest practices. This includes the authority to require “commercial forest vegetative types to be
harvested in such manner as to support forest practices that maintain and enhance the economic
benefits of forests and forest resources to New Mexico".
The Forestry Division first developed timber harvesting and forest regeneration rules in 1979 and
adopted the Commercial Timber Harvesting Requirements, 19.20.4 NMAC in 2002 and
amended 19.20.4 NMAC in 2007. According to EMNRD, the purpose of 19.20.4 NMAC is to
require appropriate harvesting practices of commercial forest species on non-municipal and non-
federal lands in the State of New Mexico.
EMNRD continues:
“Since 2002, the interest in using woody biomass, including trees such as piñon and juniper, for
electricity production, cellulosic ethanol fuel and for heating in New Mexico has increased. In
addition, piñon and juniper trees are being commercially harvested on a large scale for fire wood
and to a smaller scale for wood composite manufacturing. Due to the commercial nature of these
existing and planned activities, the Division added these species to the commercial timber
harvesting requirements. The requirements assure that the harvests are silviculturally sound and
that owners and other responsible persons or entities comply with harvesting methods and slash
treatment to reduce fire threat and insect and disease infestations. It is also important for the
Division to compel harvest methods and erosion management standards that ensure harvest
activities do not negatively affect water quality."
EMNRD notes: “During the rulemaking process, some individuals commented that the addition
of piñon and juniper species to the commercial forest species list would prevent the harvesting of
those species and therefore prevent forest and watershed restoration projects. However, the
addition of the species does not prohibit the harvesting of the species, the rule simply requires
that the landowner obtain a permit and comply with the harvesting standards, which reduce the
risk of wildfires and the threat of forest insect and disease epidemics and protect water quality in
associated water courses. In fact, NMSA 1978, Section 68-2-16 specifically provides that
Senate Bill 476 – Page
landowners may convert their forested lands to other uses, which means a landowner could clear-
cut an area provided that they obtain a permit and comply with the associated harvest plan."
According to EMNRD, some statements made during the comment period indicated that some
believed that piñon and juniper species are invasive species and should be eradicated. EMNRD
notes “This is not a biologically sound perspective. In fact, several native plants, such as piñon,
juniper, sagebrush, creosote, etc. have been mislabeled as “invasive species" by some private and
public land managers in New Mexico. Piñon and juniper tree species are native trees and are an
integral part of many ecosystems in New Mexico. It is important that citizens become aware that
these are indigenous (not invasive) species. Management of these species’ habitat should focus
on ecosystem and watershed health and sustainability instead of focusing upon the elimination of
native floristic elements."
According to EMNRD, prior to adoption of the revised rules and regulation, the State Forestry
Division reviewed the recent rule amendment for adverse effects to small businesses and found
little potential for significant impacts on small businesses. EMNRD notes that non-commercial
tree cutting is exempt from the permitting requirements. Commercial harvesting under 75 acres
for fire wood a year is also excluded from the permitting requirements. In addition, other
commercial harvesting of less than 25 acres per year does not require a permit.
The State Forestry Division states it will assist landowners with the applications and expects to
issue permits within 30 days. Obtaining the permit will not cause unreasonable expense or delay
for the operator. Landowners harvesting other commercial species, such as ponderosa pine,
Douglas fir and aspen have been required to obtain harvest permits for nearly 30 years.
HED notes: The Range Improvement Task Force (RITF) is an interdisciplinary team of range
ecologists, wildlife experts, agricultural economists and cattle specialists that provides
information for use in resolving environmental conflicts. The task force provides scientific
information that helps ranchers, land managers, and policymakers make decisions about public
land use.
HED notes an alternative would be to seek other non-state funding sources such as private or
federal grants.