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Project ID: 99-1-3-08

Year: 2000

Date Started: 02/29/2000

Date Completed: 04/01/2004

Title: Monument Canyon Research Natural Area, Santa Fe National Forest

Project Proposal Abstract: Monument Canyon RNA (MCRNA), in the Jemez Mountains, Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF), New Mexico, includes some of the oldest remaining Pinus ponderosa stands in the southwestern United States. Historically, surface fires burned on the mesas of Monument Canyon at low intensity, relatively high frequency, and a high degree of spatial heterogeneity. The natural fire regime has been absent for nearly a century, due to the combined effects of grazing and subsequent fire suppression in surrounding areas. As a consequence, large portions of the RNA are now covered by an unnaturally dense thickets of small stems ("dog-hair"), most of which are morbid and have little prospect of reaching the canopy. The dominant overstory trees have themselves been adversely affected by increased root-zone competition with the dense understory, reflected in evidence of deteriorating vigor and increasing vulnerability to disease. Both standing and fallen fuel loadings in a range of fuel size classes have reached extremely high levels, due to the absence of fire-related mortality and combustion of dead fuel. Consequently, the viability of the RNA itself is threatened by a catastrophic crown event, as are homes and structures along the wildland interface. The objectives of our research program in Monument Canyon are to: a) Reduce the risk of catastrophic fire events exceeding the natural range of variability for intensity and severity, which would threaten the existence of the forest stand and this historic RNA; (b) Reducing the risk to surrounding homes and social infrastructure in the developed-wildland interface; (c) Restore the ecological quality and integrity of the area, including protection of watershed values and ecological services; (d) Develop a model for fire and fuel management in mixed land-use landscapes (general public lands, research natural areas, private ownership); and (e) Demonstrate a viable collaboration among public and private partners and the research community in reducing fuel loads and fire risk. Monument Canyon represents an opportunity to advance the JFS mission in several respects. First, the restoration of fire into a Research Natural Area represents a significant step in public lands management. MCRNA is an important RNA in the region, and thus fire and fuels management will serve an important public educational role. Second, fuel reduction in this area is essential given the proximity to an urban-wildland interface with 'potential for a high-intensity event. Third, the fuel reduction program for MCRNA is integrated in to the larger landscape-level fuel management strategy being undertaken by SFNF (USDA 1997; USDA 1999). MCRNA is adjacent to a larger fuel management area on San Juan and Cat Mesas, and in proximity to several significant proposed Fire & Fire Surrogates research areas near the communities of Los Alamos, and could extend the significance of that work. Finally, the team working at MCRNA involves a positive collaboration of Public lands managers, university researchers, and local residents. Research and fuels management activities will include extensive baseline fuel inventories and stand characterization, a factorial treatment design for thinning and burning, and monitoring of the post-burn response.

Principal Investigator: Thomas W. Swetnam

Agency/Organization: University of Arizona-Tucson

Branch or Dept: Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Donald A. Falk

University of Arizona-Tucson

School of Natural Resources & the Environment


Craig D. Allen

USGS-Geological Survey

FORT-Fort Collins Science Center


Kay Beeley

NPS-National Park Service

Bandelier National Monument


Emily K. Heyerdahl

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula


John Peterson

Forest Service

Santa Fe NF-Jemez Ranger Station


Marie Rodriguez

Forest Service

Santa Fe NF-Jemez Ranger Station

Federal Cooperator

Carleton B. Edminster

Forest Service

RMRS-Southwest Forest Science Complex

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Southern Rockies


There are no project locations identified for this project.

Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
    48 Ph.D. Dissertation Ph.D. dissertation research. (Univ. of Arizona - D. Falk)
    251 Dataset (including spatial) MCRNA Research Database
    252 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Workshop Presentations for Forest Service and Other Federal Land Managers
    5564 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Presentation at Professional/Scientific Society Meetings

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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