As New Mexico's record-breaking 2011 wildfire season got under way last spring, New Mexico State University personnel found themselves involved in emergency response efforts around the state. Evacuation of livestock was a major priority, and NMSU's involvement was primarily through the Cooperative Extension Service and the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center.

In the aftermath of the fires, a number of NMSU personnel and offices are involved in recovery assistance efforts of various sorts.

Much of this activity is related to the huge Las Conchas fire, the largest wildfire in the state's history, which raged for more than a month, burned more than 156,000 acres, destroyed more than 100 buildings, and threatened Los Alamos National Laboratory and the town of Los Alamos.

The fire consumed 16,600 acres of Santa Clara Pueblo holdings, roughly a third of the tribe's land, including cultural sites, forest resources and critical watershed areas. NMSU's most tangible and long-term contribution to the recovery enterprise is likely to be in the form of seedlings from the university's Mora Research Center to support Santa Clara Pueblo reforestation efforts.

Tammy Parsons is a program coordinator at the Mora center. She said the Santa Clara Pueblo project started out as a reforestation and restoration effort before the fires came. It included a contract for 65,000 seedlings for 2011, to be used for riparian bosque and beaver habitat restoration.

According to Bruce Bower, forestry director for the Santa Clara Pueblo, some of that work was related to damage from the Oso Complex fire of 1998 and the Cerro Grande fire of 2000. Those fires burned more than 10,000 acres of Santa Clara forest. The Las Conchas fire burned some of that area again, he said.

"Now, with 13,000 to 14,000 acres needing reforestation, we'll need millions of saplings," Bower said. "We have always had a great relationship with the folks at Mora. We are hoping that they can increase the number of saplings beyond what we had requested for this year, and supply many more over the course of the next three to four years." He said the pueblo is also hoping to install a greenhouse so they can begin growing some of their own trees. They have applied for grant money for the purchase of saplings and to meet other reforestation needs.

Other NMSU wildfire recovery support has been in the form of educational presentations.