New Mexico is on fire again. A year ago I hiked into the Pecos Wilderness and camped by Jacks Creek. We were pleasantly surprised to find some snow still piled on the shady slopes of East Pecos Baldy. Right now that wilderness, and the whole Santa Fe National Forest that sits around it, is closed to public access due to extreme fire danger.
I have a friend who coordinates conservation crews around the region. One crew was planning to work near Taos, close to the 36,000-acre Ute Park Fire. Actually they were set to be working on private land, and it looked like the project would proceed; but the landowner decided, given present conditions, that running chainsaws on the property might not be the best idea.
When I worked at Cottonwood Gulch, our policy was to voluntarily abide by the fire restrictions of surrounding Cibola National Forest. When they banned campfires, we’d put a pause to them too. Fire knows no distinctions of property ownership or land use. Fire does not notice barbed wire fencing.
The problem with wilderness is that it rests on a binarism. If certain land is set aside for complete preservation, the implication is that everything else sits for the plundering. Sacrifice zones are the opposite side of the same coin: you can’t invent one concept without immediately conjuring the other. Jedediah Purdy: “There is no equality among American landscapes.”
10 Best of 2014
January: Wyoming and the Open
February: New Mexico and the Holes
Notes on The Accounts