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Feds Use Prescribed Fire To Make Progress In Southwest

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — There's nothing secret about what's planned for Area 74 — a swath of forested land along the Continental Divide in southern New Mexico that needs some attention.

After years of planning, crews with the Gila National Forest are making final preparations to walk the 16-mile perimeter with drip torches.

Nearly 16 square miles will be set ablaze this spring as part of a $375 million nationwide campaign by the U.S. Forest Service to clean up overgrown forest and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires as things heat up and dry out.

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The agency plans to treat close to 2 million acres with fire, mechanical thinning and other means.

State foresters, wildlife managers and environmental groups are pleading with Congress to approve more funding — $479 million — to boost the work in 2017.