Local FAC Leaders Gather for a Peer-Learning Session in Taos, NM

Author: Matt Piccarello

On October 21, fire adapted communities (FAC) leaders from throughout Northern New Mexico gathered in Taos for the New Mexico Hub of the FAC Learning Network (FACLN) peer-learning workshop. A diverse group of 37 participants were in attendance from 23 different organizations including Firewise community members, elected officials, local fire departments, state and federal officials, and local businesses. The number of participants allowed for productive small group discussions.

Anne Bradley, Forest Conservation Program Director for the New Mexico Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) kicked off the workshop with a welcome address and overview of the FACLN and TNC’s Rio Grande Water Fund. The connection between forest restoration, wildfire, and water resources was useful in framing the FACLN’s collective efforts and provided an important context.

Various peer-leaders helped facilitate small group discussions focused on three important FAC topics: coordination and collaboration, engaging residents and assessing hazards, and community planning for evacuation and post-fire recovery. Participants shared best practices and worked together to come up with new and creative solutions to common challenges.

Peer-leader presentations helped set the stage for the small group sessions. A presentation on “After Wildfire” by Eliza Kretzmann of New Mexico State Forestry and the Natural Resource Conservation Service was useful in expanding the discussion beyond wildfire prevention and mitigation. Recovery from wildfire is an important aspect of community resilience and generated productive discussions about how to incorporate planning for post-fire recovery into community wildfire protection plans. Other presentation topics included evacuation planning in the Brazos Canyon near Chama, NM, and wildfire hazard home assessments.

Small group discussions focused on identifying common challenges and tools or solutions for addressing them. Some common challenges participants identified included how to manage slash from thinning projects, engaging non-resident landowners, and managing collaborative relationships with multiple agencies. Examples of tools and solutions included utilizing multiple messages to reach resistant landowners (fire danger, forest health, water, wildlife etc.), reaching out to utility companies as potential partners, and hosting tours of successful defensible space and thinning projects. One additional benefit of highlighting successful defensible space projects is that it may generate a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) within communities and provide further incentive for thinning.

A list of all the peer-leaders who participated, resources shared at the workshop and presentation PDFs are available here. Planning is underway for a second peer-learning workshop for communities in North-Central New Mexico. Thank you to everyone who participated!

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