New Mexico Sustainable Forestry Business Plan

The New Mexico Sustainable Forestry Business Plan brings together diverse stakeholders to co-create a strategy for restoring and sustaining our burned and overly dense unburned forests. Together we can conceive a comprehensive approach in Colfax, Mora, and San Miguel, Counties that serves long-term forest health, reduces wildfire threats, and is as carbon negative as possible. We can also improve the economic well-being of rural people while sustaining local and Indigenous values, communities, and cultures. Yes, we can do all this if we think, plan, and invest collaboratively for the common good.

Current recovery efforts that primarily consist of compensation to individual households and businesses do not recover the landscapes and livelihoods that communities and the region rely on. Many western rural communities still suffer in the aftermath of wildfires due to the absence of an integrated strategy. With a clear vision of a vital future and a road map for how to get there, we can ensure that the substantial funds now being deployed transform the conditions that led to the fires in the first place.

What’s the challenge?

We need a new initiative style equipped to facilitate the collaboration and coordination necessary to respond effectively to major ecological breakdowns. Within 18 to 24 months of the massive 2022 Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon wildfires, $100 million in the commercial value of sawlogs just on private lands will be lost through rot and deterioration if we don’t act fast. The challenge the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Initiative has undertaken is to coordinate across businesses and governments to scale up the volume of harvesting, logistics, and processing of various forest materials into valuable products. This coordinated action and funding will empower the numerous public sector efforts now in gear to effectively expand the capacity of the local forestry materials industry with business-savvy capital for staffing, equipment, and new facilities coupled with more culturally and ecologically relevant practices. We can integrate funding and support from the public and private sectors to accomplish what neither government nor business can accomplish independently.

What’s the opportunity?

This initiative is a well-informed pilot project that exemplifies what is possible when diverse stakeholders think, plan, and invest together. In addition to an economic and ecological issue, this is a social justice issue. We can address all three holistically. The income from multiple value streams can pay for the clearing of dead timber and the thinning of green wood, which, in turn, has immense importance to local people who, for centuries, have used our forests for firewood, grazing, hunting, and other traditional purposes. At the same time, forest thinning protects roads, power lines, and watersheds while improving the land’s ecological health. Local communities and state and federal agencies will realize huge returns if we rally around our power as a thoughtful and activated community.

What’s the next step?

Building from an 18-page outline based on input from numerous individuals and organizations, the team is poised to facilitate the region’s stakeholders in co-creating an “Investor-Grade Community Action Plan” that will pinpoint the commercial, ecological, and operational realities of scaling up harvesting, logistics, and processing of forest biomass. This analysis and Action Plan will provide the basis for private sector investment, local forestry business expansion, and any needed state or federal funding support for the plan’s implementation, which is scheduled to start immediately upon plan completion.

What deliverables will the Action Plan generate?

  1. An optimal harvesting-to-processing plan for multiple value streams
  2. Stakeholder roles and participation plan (who is doing what)
  3. Transportation and logistics plan
  4. Equipment plan
  5. Framework for an ecosystem recovery plan
  6. Project management plan
  7. Month-by-month expense and revenue projections for the plan’s implementation
  8. Finance plan

What benefits are only possible through this integrated approach?

  1. Additional opportunities for funding from public and private investment
  2. New markets for saw logs and other forest products
  3. Increased harvesting capacity
  4. Intelligent infrastructure and transportation logistics
  5. Value streams for non-merchantable timber and biomass
  6. Investment capital for all stages of the value chain
  7. Blockchain, carbon markets, and other alternative valuation methods
  8. Coordinated ecosystem/watershed, landscape, and community recovery

What are the intended financial returns of implementing the Action Plan?

  1. Fire prevention and reduction (Over $6M in fire mitigation benefits annually)
  2. Help maintain and revive local and Indigenous communities (Without access to healthy forests, people will lose access to their lands and livelihoods – an incalculable loss.)
  3. Gross receipts tax increase to NM (5% of $100M in saw timber revenue will add $5M in new taxes)
  4. Local jobs and income enhancements (Even a single mill and associated jobs in the woods can provide $2M annually in regional benefits)
  5. Increased tax base for counties (e.g., in Mora County, 1.7% of $2,000,000 = $34,000 annually)
  6. Enhanced agricultural, hunting and fishing, and eco-tourism revenues
  7. Watershed protection and enhanced water access for downstream irrigators

What principles does this project stand on?

  1. We promise to support economically viable forests, watersheds, and community health in alignment with local and Indigenous values and ecological and watershed science.
  2. We will operate with humility and integrity to serve the long-term interests of the land and those who rely on it for their lifeways and traditions.
  3. We will engage with all relevant community members within an open and transparent process that seeks common ground and mutual benefit.
  4. We progress with an understanding that collaboration and coordination to contribute to the common good are more productive than the competition for individual gain
  5. We will operate in recognition and support of differing values and viewpoints.
  6. We commit to acting in the near term in a way that serves long-term sustainability.
  7. We work at the most local level possible to empower local and Indigenous peoples, businesses, landowners, agencies, NGOs, and local, state, and national governments to work as a team with the entire system in mind.

Who is the team leading the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Initiative, in addition to the many other stakeholders?

Project Lead

Michael Sussman is the founder and CEO of OnTrackNorthAmerica, Inc., a nonprofit (501c3) industrial systems advisory organization. Over the last twenty-eight years, Michael has been a leading innovator of business, industrial, and infrastructure capitalization strategies that intelligently integrate private and public sector funding. He is currently stewarding the community of Mt. Pleasant, Texas, in its acquisition and redevelopment of a shuttered coal-fired power plant and mine site. Michael and his team authored the 2021 Nevada State Rail Plan, a breakthrough in public sector transportation-based industrial development. OTNA also leads the North American Freight Forum.

Forestry & Land Management

Mike Berry, High Desert Forest Solutions, NM, is a sixth-generation New Mexican rancher with decades of experience in large and small-scale forestry and logging operations. This includes managing private and federal timber harvest operations and contracts in Colfax and Mora Counties. In addition to expertise in forestry, biomass energy, industrial and civil construction, Mike provides generational links and a deep understanding of our focus communities.

Erin Connelly, Santa Fe, NM, recently completed a 42-year career with the USDA Forest Service. Having worked “on-the-ground” as a timber sale planner and recreation manager among others, Erin most recently served at the national headquarters as the national point of contact for “Shared Stewardship” – an effort to expand partnership and work across boundaries, at scale, and setting mutual priorities, particularly with States. She has over 20 years in leadership positions including former Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Santa Fe National Forest and

ten months as interim Forest Supervisor for the Carson National Forest. She brings a partnership and collaboration perspective, as well as agency insight.

Renee Galeano-Popp, Santa Fe, NM, Renee is a veteran of the Southwest Region Forest Service where she served 25 years as a Timber and Wildlife technician, Range Conservationist, Regional Botanist and Wildlife Biologist. She worked at all levels of the agency from Ranger District to Washington Office before retiring. She brings an ecological perspective as well as agency insight, especially regarding the laws, regulations, policies, and politics of land management decisions. Renee is also a stakeholder in this process as she and her husband lost everything in the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak Fire.

Dr. John Sessions, Oregon State University, is a Distinguished Professor and the Strachan Chair of Forest Operations Management at OSU. John leads the team that reports to Congress every ten years on the U.S. Government’s stewardship of tribal land forests and is a globally recognized expert in forestry decision support systems, biomass collection, and transportation. John contributes his vast knowledge and practical experience to all aspects of the project.

Life Cycle Analysis

Dr. Judi Krzyzanowski, ON, Canada, is a forester and environmental scientist and an expert in emissions assessment, policy, and regulations with a focus on lifecycle analysis and cost accounting of carbon balances and environmental footprints. Judi has researched the physical characteristics and environmental benefits of biochar, including carbon sequestration potential, and the application and use of biochar in forestry, agriculture, horticulture, and home gardening. Judi guides the team in considering the GHG reduction and carbon sequestration impacts of each element of the forest product supply chain.

Geospatial Analysis

Paul Bouzide was the Maps Content Manager at Apple, Inc., and a former systems engineer at Union Pacific Railroad. Paul brings software and digital product design experience to our development of a user-friendly decision-support tool that will allow the agriculture, community, and commercial stakeholders to access the collective knowledge of forestry commodity development and marketing gained during this project.

Community Coordination & Outreach

Cliff Bassman is COO of OnTrackNorthAmerica and oversees the design and delivery of the nonprofit’s collaborative convening tools. He has extensive experience building and managing cross-functional teams to implement regional and statewide industrial projects.

For further engagement: contact Michael Sussman,

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