New greenhouse to help New Mexico forests ravaged by fires

State officials have chosen Mora as the site for an enormous greenhouse that will grow millions of seedlings to restore fire-ravaged forests and help them better withstand climate change. The greenhouse will be part of a reforestation center slated to be built in a logical location next to New Mexico State University’s Forestry Research Center in Mora.

The reforestation center was announced in January 2022 as a remedy for forests scorched by wildfires, which scientists predict will grow more intense and frequent in the changing climate. Then, a few months later, two prescribed burns that went awry merged into the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, the largest runaway blaze in the state’s recorded history, scorching 341,000 acres and destroying several hundred homes.

The inferno validated the need for the reforestation center more vividly and swiftly than anyone involved had imagined.

“We knew that these types of fires would happen, man-made or natural,” said Owen Burney, NMSU ecophysiology professor and director of the forestry research center. “It really gave us momentum, and it’s a sad truth: It took the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire for people to see the light… to listen to us more attentively.”