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Rio Arriba County claims new Carson National Forest plan violates civil rights

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Greg Westfall
/
Flickr
Carson National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service is now implementing a new plan that would completely change how the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico is managed by prioritizing sustainability, watershed health, and curbing land usage.

But, officials with Rio Arriba County are asking Congress to put a stop to it––claiming the plan violates the rights of their citizens.

From start to finish, revising the forest’s management plan took eight whole years––with on-the-ground work just beginning in early August.

By law, these plans are updated at least every 15 years.

Historically, Land Grant communities and residents of the Carson National Forest have heavily leaned on this land to survive. They pick piñon, hunt wildlife, gather firewood, among other things.

That’s why Rio Arriba County Manager Lucia Sanchez sent a letter asking U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján and the regional forester to intervene. She’s claiming the plan will remove large areas of the forest used by people for over 500 years.

“The removal from the land has really removed a people’s sense of place and sense of self,” Sanchez said.

Pointing to both state and federal law, Sanchez said the plan goes against the County’s responsibility for the safety, welfare, and prosperity of its people. She goes one step further, claiming it discriminates against residents with limited English speaking skills by barring access to services.

Regional forester Michiko Martin has responded to the letter, saying that she believes the plan reflects and supports northern New Mexico communities, culture, and traditional ways of life.

Scroll through the Rio Arriba County Commission's letter.

Read regional forester Michiko Martin's response.

Bryce Dix is our new local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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