Hazard Trees Pose Springtime Danger

SFNF News:

SANTA FE – Strong spring winds on the Santa Fe National Forest are likely to increase risks from falling trees. 

Visitors to the Santa Fe National Forest are urged to use extra caution during recreation activities, especially in areas that have been severely burned by wildfire.

On the west side of the Santa Fe National Forest, trails in the Jemez Mountains are still feeling the effects of the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. Dead trees are falling in record numbers around Los Alamos on the Canada Bonita trails out to the Guaje Canyon overlook and on the upper portion of Guaje Ridge Trail down to Mitchell Trail. 

Trees also have come down on trails in Water Canyon, Cañon de Valle, Pajarito Canyon and Los Alamos Canyon in higher numbers than usual.

In the Pecos Wilderness on the east side of the Forest, trails affected by the Jaroso Fire in 2013 also are seeing record numbers of falling trees. Visitors should use extra caution on the Skyline Trail between Horsethief Meadow and Pecos Baldy, the Rito Perro Trail, Jacks Creek Trail north of Round Mountain and south of Pecos Baldy Lake, and the Dockweiler Trail above Beatty’s Flats.

Hazard trees are trees that pose a danger to people or property as a result of structural defects caused by age, fire or disease. The risk from fire-killed hazard trees is exacerbated by moist soil from the spring thaw, erosion of topsoil and wind. 

Stay safe in the forest by following these suggestions:

  • Remember that falling trees are always a hazard when traveling in the forest;
  • Be aware of your surroundings and look up when hiking on trails;
  • Avoid parking or camping in areas where trees could fall;
  • Avoid dense patches of dead trees; and
  • Live trees also can break or fall in high winds, especially when soil is moist.

Stay out of the forest when there are strong winds that could blow down trees. If you are already in the forest when the winds kick up, head to a clearing out of reach of potential falling trees.

When driving in remote areas of the forest, park close to a main road rather than on a spur or one-way section. Carrying an ax or saw in your vehicle will help you avoid being trapped if a tree falls across the road. 

Do not rely on cell phones for safety because you may not always have cell coverage in remote sections of the forest.

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