State suspends free fuel program

September 9, 2011 • Local News

Due to the program’s high cost, the drought, and the increased possibility of forest fires, the free public fuel wood program has been suspended.

According to a press release from the New Mexico State Land Office, State Land Commissioner Ray [auth] Powell has suspended the program that once allowed individuals to gather wood for fuel from several areas of state trust lands.

“We’ve suspended the program because of the cost and because of the drought factors,” Powell said in a phone interview. He said that, after analyzing the program, he “determined it was not in the best interest of the (state trust lands). … It was causing quite a bit of damage.”
Powell said allowing people to chop wood cost $75,000 a year. He said he felt that money could have been going “to public schools, universities, or hospitals. … The taxpayers end up supporting the free wood program.”

The cutting of inappropriate trees was also an issue for Powell.

“(People) were cutting big, older trees that were supporting the health of the land,” Powell said. “It was not a well-supported program.”

Powell said there was also a concern for possible forest fires.

Chopping wood for fuel is still an option; however, it is now a regulated process in which people pay a fee to get a permit. Powell urged the public to contact the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service for details on how to do this.

Powell served as state land commissioner from 1993 to 2002. He said the public fuel wood program was introduced in 2003, allowing for the chopping of wood during the fall months.

Powell was elected state land commissioner again in 2010.

For more information on fuel wood, including how and where to acquire it, call 505-827-5760.

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