The State of New Mexico and collaborative stakeholders have made a concerted effort over the past fifteen years to identify areas throughout the state that are at risk for wildland fires. Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) have become the primary mechanism for evaluating risk due to their emphasis on community involvement and assessment of local resources.
CWPPs are also an important planning document used by emergency responders and citizens to plan for and respond to wildfire emergencies. Local leaders and governmental entities find CWPPs valuable for the purposes of identifying critical needs and prioritizing funding. The New Mexico State Forestry Division has used CWPPs to rank risk communities for the annual Communities At Risk Report that is provided to the Governor and New Mexico legislature by December 15 of each year. Most of the wildfire risk areas in New Mexico are now included in a CWPP, but the work does not stop there. Resources and landscapes change over time and CWPPs must be revisited and refreshed regularly. Changes in risk ratings should be reflected upon completion of priority projects and new initiatives developed for the CWPP to remain viable. In addition, effective new strategies and wildland programs should be incorporated into CWPP planning efforts. For example, across the country, natural resources and fire managers are increasingly operating under the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy which has these goals: a. Restore and maintain resilient landscapes, b. Create and sustain Fire Adapted Communities, and c. Respond safely, effectively and efficiently to wildfire. CWPPs should be updated every five years to be most useful. These guidelines are designed to enhance a CWPP’s effectiveness and were generated from actual experiences with mitigation and large wildfires, as well as community planning processes.