Los Alamos National Laboratory begins forest thinning in Rendija Canyon

The project aims to protect the community from devastating wildfires

September 6, 2023


Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Emergency Management division has begun a forest-thinning project to protect the community from devastating wildfires and create a healthier forest in Rendija Canyon. The Rendija Canyon Wildland Fire Fuels Reduction and Defensible Space Project will create a fuel break across 135 acres near Rendija Canyon Road, providing protection to the Los Alamos Sportsmen’s Club and nearby residents in the Barranca Mesa area . The project, which takes place on land owned by the Department of Energy, is expected to be completed in late November.

The fuels reduction  project will encompass a powerline utility corridor, the Los Alamos Sportsmen’s Club range area  and an area south of the archery range in the section north of Barranca Mesa.

Nearby residents may see and hear crews working in the Rendija Canyon area. Please follow all  posted warnings in the area.

Protecting the forest and the community

A mosaic fuel break will be used to reduce the intensity of wildfires by reducing the amount of fuel that is available to burn. This causes potential crown fires burning through treetops to drop to the ground, enabling firefighters to establish a defensible point to fight the fire.

“The thinning will consist of removing pre-selected vegetation, brush, down woody material and other accelerants in a mosaic pattern,” explained Rich Nieto, Emergency Management Division program manager at the Laboratory. A tactical firefighting tool, the mosaic pattern creates a more open parklike landscape, thus reducing the heat intensity for firefighters and helping them to establish an anchor point to fight a wildfire.

“When the natural random forest pattern is restored, it is close to getting back to nature's way,” said Executive Adviser Jim Jones. “Of course, getting back to nature in Los Alamos means utilizing data to research and study the best and most effective means of restoration using state-of-the-art technology.”

“The Los Alamos Sportsmen’s Club has wanted to do this for some time, especially for the thick forest against Barranca Mesa, which is our archery range,” said Tom Turner, president of LASC.  “With over 1,000 members, LASC is in constant use. We are excited to be able to have more defensible space as a result of this project. The advantage to having Rich Nieto do this is that it will be professionally done through a well-executed plan, and we thank the Laboratory and the Department of Energy for their support.”

The initial stages of research, which began in early 2023, included planning, building a prescription and marking vegetation for removal.