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Sen. Tom Udall visits areas impacted by last year's Wallow Fire

On July 3 , Senator Tom Udall, along with area ranchers (in Luna, N.M.) Patti Swapp and Tom Patterson with daughters Caroline and Linsey plus Gila National Forest personnel, visited several sites on the Quemado Ranger District impacted by the 2011 Wallow Fire to discuss lessons learned, status of restoration efforts and ongoing needs.

LUNA, N.M. – This past Tuesday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall visited areas impacted by the 2011 Wallow Fire in Catron County to discuss restoration efforts, preventive measures against future large-scale wildfires and the lasting impacts it has had on the community.

“It's been one year since the Wallow Fire raged through New Mexico and Arizona," said Udall. "As we prepare to address the aftermath of the most recent blazes, it’s important to review the recovery process from last year's fires, the lessons we have learned and how we can better prepare for the next.”

Udall toured Wallow Fire burn sites with Forest Service officials and local ranchers. They discussed the Forest Service’s work to remove hazardous trees, control erosion and thin the forest to prevent future large-scale wildfires from occurring. Udall also heard from local ranchers about the Wallow Fire’s damaging impacts on the the watershed, grazing and the local economy as a whole.

“I am impressed by the work that has been done and encouraged by the honest and productive conversation between the Forest Service and area ranchers. Post-fire effects, like flooding and erosion, can cause more harm than the fire itself and, as a result, our ranchers and tourism industry are hurting. It's important for people to know that over 3 million acres of Gila Wilderness remains untouched and open for business. I encourage them to come visit and support the local economy," said Udall.

Last year, the Wallow fire burned over 538,000 acres before it was fully contained on July 8, 2011. This year, the record-breaking Whitewater-Baldy Fire in Catron County and the Little Bear Fire in Lincoln County have burned approximately 298,000 acres and 44,000 acres.

Based on concerns in the state, Udall cosponsored legislation with Sen. Bingaman to eliminate the 30-day waiting period for flood insurance coverage to take effect after a policy is purchased. The legislation was included in the Flood Insurance Bill that passed the Senate on June 29.

This week, Udall is touring several sites impacted by last year’s Wallow and Las Conchas fires to examine the long-term impacts and the implications for the current record-breaking wildfire season. Saturday, he will visit Santa Clara Pueblo to tour areas impacted by the Las Conchas Fire with Pueblo Governor Walter Dasheno and former Governor J. Michael Chavarria. The tour will include a visit to the pueblo’s sediment removal project and high activity tributaries and debris flow.

(Photos Courtesy of Gila National Forest)

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