Cut hundreds of trees or lose them to fire

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By Sherry Robinson


If a tree falls in the forest…

That little statement used to introduce a philosophical discussion. Today we might ask, “If a tree falls in the forest and lands on a power line, whose responsibility is the resulting fire?”

A host of insurance companies are suing the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative claiming the utility is responsible for the 2011 Las Conchas fire. 

The utility argues that the tree fell on its line from private property outside its right of way. 

We can probably expect more such lawsuits related to the Tres Lagunas and Thompson Ridge fires, both started by downed power lines.

It all comes down to prevention. We may be the home of Smokey Bear, but we’re still not serious enough about prevention. Prevention in current discussions means wider right-of-ways and tree thinning.

The co-operative wants wider easements through the national forest, reports the Rio Grande Sun, from 20-feet to 40 or 50 for distribution lines and more for transmission lines. 

Two years ago, the co-op asked for 150-foot easements, but the Forest Service and environmentalists objected. 

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