Water Resources Professional Project Reports

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Due to a mix of inter-related human and natural factors, such as climate change, drought, beetle damage, 20th century fire suppression policy and associated hazardous fuels build-up, and the expansive growth of the Wildland-Urban Interface, many montane forests in New Mexico and elsewhere in the western United States have become increasingly susceptible to high-severity wildfires. Critical sources for public drinking water systems often originate in montane forests, where wildland fires can alter hydrologic systems and degrade watersheds, while creating significant runoff, debris, and water quality impacts downstream. As the impact of high severity wildfires expands significantly beyond the proximal burn area, the scale of institutional arrangements does not match, and old rules for forest management and wildfire risk mitigation often fail. Recent efforts in New Mexico have sought to bring together stakeholders to address forest management and watershed restoration at new regional scales. A critical issue is the creation of sustainable, long-term funding mechanisms to support expanded restoration efforts to mitigate wildfire risk. Borrowing from the work of institutional scholar and Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom, I apply a theoretical framework for looking at interconnected social-ecological systems, the development of these policy problems, and the efforts to address them, in order to highlight institutional variables that are important for connecting forest health and downstream water uses. I observe that using payment for ecosystem services models as a guide, rather than a panacea, has developed arrangements that are tailored to their purpose and deviate from the traditional payment for ecosystem services arrangements.

Language (ISO)



watershed, long-term funding, restoration, payments for ecosystem services, social-ecological systems, wildlife mitigation


A Professional Project Report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Water Resources and Public Administration, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico.