Flooding hurting Valles Caldera rehab efforts

January 4, 2014 • State News

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — Flood impacts from the Las Conchas and Thompson Ridge fires are likely to pose an ongoing problem in the Valles Caldera National Preserve for many years to come, officials said.

Valles Caldera National Preserve staff are working to mitigate the damage at the same time they are facing limited resources, Los Alamos Monitor reports (

Staff says erosion will continue to be a major problem in high-intensity [auth] burn scar areas until vegetation is able to take root.

But they say reseeding certain areas is virtually impossible, due to the steepness of the slopes and the water-resistant soil that high-intensity fires generate.

Caldera’s Watershed Program Manager Scott Compton said staff are taking some steps to slow runoff and reintroduce vegetation.

“We did a little reseeding with the barley up there, but we have a couple of issues with that,” Compton said. “We don’t want to incorporate invasive weeds with anything up here. So that kind of halts the use of mulch, and also the use of seed.”

The flooding has been the result of runoff from the Las Conchas burn scar. The 2011 wildfire raced across more than 230 square miles, including lands held sacred by the pueblo.

The Thompson Ridge Fire on the Valles Caldera National Preserve has charred nearly 36 square miles last year.

The U.S. Forest Service last year launched plans to plant trees this spring in an area burned by the Las Conchas blaze. Around 56 acres at the base of Pajarito Ski Hill were slated to be planted with Douglas Fir trees.

The effort will be part of a larger planting initiative that will cover about 2,000 acres and involve almost 500,000 trees.

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