The Sangre de Cristo Mountain Initiative
A Commonsense Solution to New Mexico’s Forest Crisis

In New Mexico and across the West, we see the consequences of competition, division, fragmentary policies, and short-sighted planning in the too-thick stands of trees choking our forests, the diminished habitat for wildlife, and the robbing of acequias, fertile farms, and ranchlands of the water needed to sustain life and livelihoods. At the same time, a shortage of well-paying jobs is leading to the growth of the region’s most significant export: our children. These collective failures are also evidenced in the fire scars radiating across our landscapes and the floods that roar down our valleys, the lost homes and lifeways, staggering firefighting costs, and incalculable human suffering.

Yet a future of cultural and ecological destruction is far from inevitable. It’s a win-win if we work together quickly and cooperatively before much of the value of the burned timber is lost, and the next big fire occurs. There are many complaints about what is wrong — but few proposals for proactive, viable solutions. We  have one, and we ask policymakers, funders, and foundations to take a break from business-as-usual and invest in a new approach.

The Challenge:

Communities in Mora and San Miguel counties have been decimated by recent fires. Within 24 to 48 months, $100 million in commercial value from sawlogs will be lost (in addition to small diameter biomass in the years that follow). This income pays for the clearing of dead timber and the thinning of green wood, which, in turn, has immense importance in allowing local people access to their forests for firewood cutting, grazing, hunting, and many other traditional uses. This is not just an economic or ecological issue – it’s about social justice. Do we turn our back on lifeways that have come to define New Mexico, or do we lean into the hard work of reconceiving how we treat the land and the people who rely on it? In order to revive our communities and landscapes we are seeking to revitalize the forest industry in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with a focus on areas damaged by recent fires but realize we need to focus on the entire landscape in order to devise a comprehensive approach.

The Response:

We propose a Forest-to-Market Community Action Plan that comes form  coordinating publc and private sector efforts in a way that transcends current planning silos and roadblocks to implementation.  Proper funding by US Forest Service and state government will enable our team of recognized experts from across the continent, in partnership with local conservationists, community members, landowners, loggers, mill owners, scientists, and many others to build a consensus-based long-term strategy for forest management and restoration. Unlike typical forest fire responses, this strategy will address the major barriers to forest and community revitalization, including:

·         Improved access to markets
·         Expanded access to capital
·         Increase in reliable, skilled labor
·         Conversion of previously non-marketable timber into valuable products

Deliverables include:
·         Stakeholder participation plan
·         Commercially viable harvesting to processing plan
·         Transportation and logistics plan
·         Equipment and workforce coordination plan
·         Month-by-month expense and revenue plan

The state’s ROI comes in the form of:return on the state’s investment:

·         Fire prevention
·         Gross receipts taxes
·         Payroll taxes
·         Ecosystem services
·         Local incomes
·         Watershed protection

Benefits to landowners, the forestry industry, and the region that are not possible without an integrated approach and external expertise:

  • Integrated funding support from public and private dollars
  • Forest-to-market solution for saw logs
  • Scaled up harvesting capacity
  • Needed infrastructure and transportation built
  • Previously non-merchantable timber/biomass conversion to valuable products
  • Investment capital for all stages of the value chain
  • Blockchain, carbon markets, and other alternative valuation methods

The time is short to recover our losses from the last fires while preventing the next big one. Invest in a nationally recognized team working in partnership with local people to create a lasting difference for the lands and livelihoods of the Hispanio-Indigenous uplands of northern New Mexico. Join our many supporters across the spectrum of interests who see this concept as our only shot to make a lasting difference for our forests and future generations.

For more information, see or contact Cliff Bassman by email or call 215-564-3004.

Principles on which this project stands:
·         We promise to advance commercial opportunities in alignment with optimal forest, watershed, and community health.
·         We will engage with all relevant community members within an open, and transparent process.
·         We progress with an understanding that collaboration and coordination to contribute to the common good is more productive than competition for individual gain.
·         We commit to integrating short-term and long-term benefits.
·         We invite businesses, landowners, agencies, NGOs, and project sponsors to gain from working with the team with the entire system in mind.

Our project is supported by decades of experience including leaders in a diversity of fields ranging from large landscape conservation to forestry supply chain development, transportation, renewable energy and numerous other areas.

Our team includes:


Dr. Charles Curtin, Sangre de Cristo Mountain Initiative, NM, has 30 years of experience in collaborative natural resource management, his current work focuses on carbon-negative conservation and rural development practices. He also co-founded graduate programs in adaptive management at MIT and elsewhere in collaborative decision-making and is widely published on this and related topics including several books on collaborative resource management and complex system dynamics.


Michael Sussman, OnTrackNorthAmerica, PA, has applied his facilitation methodology to achieve community support for 40 infrastructure projects in 32 states. 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. Sussman and OTNA have founded and lead the Southwest Supply Chain Coalition, a new model for multi-state collaboration among Nevada, California, Utah, and Arizona. OTNA also leads the North American Freight Forum.

Timber Harvesting & Logistics

Mike Berry, High Desert Forestry, NM, is a 6th-generation New Mexican rancher with decades of experience in large-scale forestry and logging operations, including managing timber operations in Colfax County. In addition to expertise in forestry and biomass energy, Mike provides generational links and a deep understanding of our focus communities.

Biomass Energy Logistics and 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 will verify GHG reduction and carbon-sequestration of each element of the forest product supply chain.

Los Alamos National Labs is conducting studies specific to our pilot project region that analyzes conventional forestry versus thinning-to-biomass energy conversion, as well as landscape-level carbon-balance analysis of the circular economy we are proposing. Nate Anderson of the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Robert Baldwin of the National Renewable Energy Lab, and Tom Miles of the International and U.S. Biochar Initiatives and many others serve as our advisors.

Transport Analysis

Dr. John Sessions, Oregon State University, is a Distinguished Professor and Strachan Chair of Forest Operations Management at OSU. John is a globally recognized expert in forestry decision support systems, biomass collection, and transportation. John will be contributing his vast knowledge and practical experience to all aspects of the project.

Geospatial Analysis

Paul Bouzide is 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 agricultural, community and commercial stakeholders to access the collective knowledge of climate-smart forestry commodity development and marketing gained during this project.

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