By JIM OWEN
Daily Press Staff
The Cooperative Ownership Development Corp. of
Silver City has received a grant to fund a forestry initiative and to support
Tierra Alta Wood Products.
The New Mexico Community Foundation announced
the $40,000 grant as part of the $627,000 it is giving this fall to 35 nonprofit
organizations in the state.
The 16-year-old foundation is New Mexico's
only statewide, community foundation. Headquartered in Santa Fe, the
organization raises money from individuals, corporations and other
"It makes grants primarily to programs that work to
strengthen the quality of life in rural communi-ties," a news release
The CODC will spend some of the money on its recently announced
Jobs and Biodiversity Project, involving small-scale logging on the Gila
National Forest designed to provide jobs and improve the health of the
The organization recently received a $75,000 grant from the Ford
Foundation to launch the project.
Thinning of the forest is needed to
prevent large wildfires, according to the CODC.
"As a result of logging,
fire suppression and overgrazing, area forests have a very high density of
small-diameter trees, and diversity of forest cover has been lost," the
"Forest conditions pose a high danger of unnatural,
stand-replacing fires and a lack of resiliency to other natural disturbances,"
The CODC envisions an "oppor-tunity for a confluence of
interests (by) turning the excess small-diam-eter timber of the forest and the
ready labor of our communities into assets."
The plan calls for "removal
of small-diameter material (to) help restore forest ecosystems at the same time
the local community, along with the CODC, is developing job-creating economic
uses for wood wastes and trees."
The organization seeks to link local,
small-capacity loggers with environmentalists, the Forest Service and area
"This represents an opportunity not present in many areas
where conflict on (logging) issues is so intense that it inhibits cooperation,"
the CODC wrote. "The project was developed to take advantage of this opportunity
to develop community-based use and restoration work which can serve as a model
to other forest-dependent communities."
The initiative may involve
prescribed fires, thinning, grazing deferment, erosion control, road closures,
native-seed planting and "intensive ecological monitoring," according to the
"High-priority objectives include significant reduction of
the potential for high-density fires, decreasing competition among trees that
results from excessive tree densities, and enhancing habitat for imperiled and
sensitive species," the CODC wrote.
Snags (dead trees), conifer trees
with diameters of 16 inches or more, and all oaks and aspens would be preserved
under the plan.
Project partners include the Gila National Forest, the
Southwest Forest Alliance, Tierra Alta Wood Products, The Nature Conservancy,
the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, Gila WoodNet (a wood-products business in
Santa Clara), the village of Santa Clara and town of Silver City, and the Silver
City-Grant County Economic Development Corp.
Tierra Alta Wood Products is
the first major enterprise fostered by the CODC's business "incubator." Chosen
as New Mexico's Entrepreneur of the Year in Manufacturing in 1998, it provides
jobs to the low-income, minority community.
The operation uses wood
wastes and small-diameter trees to create a pellet fuel for home
Tierra Alta also produces vigas, bark ground cover, playground
fiber and mesquite barbecue chips.
The plan is for the business to evolve
into an employee-owned corporation, "an important key to combating the
persistent poverty and powerlessness of area people," the CODC
Tierra Alta employs nine people and provides work for five local
trucking firms. It has produced and sold more than 1,300 tons of pellets so far
this heating season.