ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - It's dry and dangerous, and now there's a new reason to be concerned about the tinderbox that is New Mexico'sBosque, a small endangered bird.
In 2004 that bird was blamed for adding fuel to a very large Bosque fire and now it's protected habitat is growing.
But what impact does that have on the upcoming fire season?
Last week the feds expanded the protected habitat for the Southwestern Willow Fly Catcher.
The small song bird is only found in the southwestern U.S., parts of Canada and parts of Mexico. It needs the dense fire-friendly fuels like those in the Bosque to breed.
When flames were spotted dancing in the Bosque in 2004, then Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez lashed out at the Southwestern Willow Fly Catcher. He claimed because of it's protected nesting areas, crews couldn't clear out dangerous fire fuels and parts of the Bosque burned without cause.
Now the bird's habitat is growing.
"It's not just about the bird, but it's a representation of what the habitat is altogether," said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Biologist Debrah hill.
Hill explained when the bird is doing well that means the river's ecosystem is healthy too.
She said the bird is endangered because its favorite willow trees are disappearing and the water is too. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is adding more than 200,000 acres to the bird's nesting grounds.
The expansion spreads from forest areas in California, to New Mexico's Bosque area and even into Texas.
In New Mexico it means crews will have to evaluate how they handle fire mitigation.
"Anytime we look at an area for treatment, we go in there with the idea that there may be habitat and measures that need to be taken to ensure the habitat is not disturbed," explained Dan Ware NM State Forestry's spokesperson.
Crews will be limited to how much dangerous salt cedar and non native brush they can pull out along the river which can increase fire fuels. They'll also have to put in more willows to give the birds a space to nest. Because those willows are less flammable, biologists say it could actually help the Bosque and possibly cut down on fires.
"A lot of the restoration that's good for the bird is also good for the Bosque," added Hill.
The good news is there is enough protected habitat already in Bernalillo County.
According to the city planning division, that means no further restrictions for the metro area Bosque.
The expansion includes more than 1,200 miles of river and stream banks in all of the states affected including the Rio Grande.
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