In the environment of the American West, the elements of fire and water play an outsized role. Managing the health of the environment, from the high Rockies to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, means ensuring there is enough clean water to support flora and fauna and enough control of natural fuels to ensure that fires do not go out of control, as the 2011 Las Conchas fire did in the Jemez mountains. Have state and federal policies to respond to drought and to control fires worked? Have failures to manage water and fire harmed human health? What lessons have been learned and what should be done to manage fire and water going forward?
Held March 25, 2017 at the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, NM
Speakers Click name to cue video
- Moderator: Felicity Barringer, Stanford University cue video bio
- Rita Maguire, Maguire, Pearce & Storey LLC, “Ensuring Secure and Affordable Water Supplies in the Rural West” cue video bio
- Rodney Lewis, Akin Gump LLP, Presentationcue video bio
- Bill Armstrong, U.S. Forest Service cue video bio
- Anne Bradley, The Nature Conservancy, Presentation cue video bio
Bill Armstrong of the U.S. Forest Service debunked the myth that all forest fires are detrimental. He emphasized the need for regular, controlled fires to clear land to avoid catastrophic fires like the 2011 Las Conchas Fire in New Mexico that burned more than 150,000 acres at a rate of about 1 acre per second. Rita Maguire, former director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, described rural communities’ heavy dependence on groundwater, which has a finite amount. When water supply is low, it is often rural communities that suffer the most.
Readings on Environmental Health
- The Nature Conservancy: Sustainable Water Management in the Southwestern United States: Reality or Rhetoric?
- The Nature Conservancy: Effects of Climate Variability and Accelerated Forest Thinning on Watershed-Scale Runoff in Southwestern USA Ponderosa Pine Forests
- Indian Country Media Network: Gila River Indian Community Water Wins
- International Association of Wildland Fire: Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Fact Sheet