By Julie Anne Overton
SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST
The number of human-built conical stick structures – some as tall as two stories and 20 feet or more in diameter – popping up on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) seems to be on the rise, and Forest Service officials are wondering why.
They are also concerned about the significant health and safety hazards posed by these structures.
This week, employees from the Española Ranger District went into the field with a volunteer who showed them seven or eight of these stick structures off Tesuque Peak Road at Aspen Vista. At least 10 more have been reported below the Aspen Vista picnic area, and they have also been spotted on the Winsor Trail and in the Big Tesuque drainage.
SFNF staff said the structures are elaborately constructed out of 1,000 or more individual sticks or logs. The wood is seasoned and dry, and the design is similar to a classic kindling pyramid but on a much larger scale. And to exacerbate the obvious fire danger, people appear to be using fire rings inside many of the structures.
Citing the high risk of these structures collapsing or catching on fire, Española District Ranger Sandy Hurlocker said, “We are concerned about the safety of our visitors, and we are extremely worried about the fire danger to forest resources and other values at risk. A high-severity fire in this popular recreation corridor would have catastrophic consequences not only for the Santa Fe National Forest, but for the Pueblo of Tesuque, the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed and residents in nearby neighborhoods.”
The Forest Service is not sure who is building these structures and what their motives may be. “But our response is to dismantle them, and we are asking the responsible individuals not to reconstruct them,” Hurlocker said. The SFNF is also asking members of the public to report these structures and their approximate location to Forest Headquarters at 505.438.5300 or any of the Ranger District offices.
The construction of these structures on National Forest System lands is prohibited under Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 261.10(a)). Violators are punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.