Mescalero Apache Tribe, New Mexico

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The Mescalero Apache Housing Authority has been awarded at $2.1 million grant for community housing improvements on its southern New Mexico reservation. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said the tribe can use the funds for a number of projects including new construction, housing services and modernization of rental or owner-occupied housing. "Access to safe, affordable housing is a basic quality of life issue, he said. "This grant will allow the (authority) to meet many of its needs." Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Negotiations have been going on with three New Mexico logging companies -including the tribe - in an effort to beat wood borers to a million board-feet of dead timber left by last year's 8,265-acre Cree Fire. But the companies are not interest in the sale. The tribe bought the former White Sands Forest Products operation in April. Jimmy Bridge, general manager of Mescalero Forest Products said the Forest Service has already waited too long to sell the trees. Not only have wood borers arrived, but some of the trees have "blued," meaning they are tainted by a fungus that gives wood a bluish tint. He said the tribe considered bidding, but declined. "We've got reservations about it." Environmentalists have said they would rather let nature take its course with the dead wood and cite potential conflicts with the Endangered Species Act. The fire sale only pertains to 370 of the burned acres and offers only trees that are clearly dead, a Forest Service spokesman said. "Trees with even one green needle are going to be left (unharvested)." He indicated a part of the reason for the poor response to the Cree Sale relates to a dip in lumber prices.