Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Gold Rush.(Metro & New Mexico)

Byline: Story by Karen Peterson *Photographs by Eddie Moore Of the Journal

Prolonged drought is causing aspen trees in much of northern New Mexico to fast-forward through their color changes

SANTA FE Patches of gold now dapple the aspen-covered slopes of northern New Mexico's high country.Unfortunately, those patches might be limited this year, with fewer mountainsides being transformed into sheets of bright color.

A lasting drought is the culprit. A relatively dry summer followed last year's record dry winter, and the lack of moisture is taking its toll on the trees, said Bill Armstrong, forester with the U.S. Forest Service in Santa Fe.

"In drought conditions, one method deciduous trees have of coping is to lose their leaves early," Armstrong said. "They don't turn color so much as just get brown and fall off."

Popular aspen-viewing areas such as the Santa Fe Ski Basin and the Jemez Mountains are among the hardest hit by the drought. …

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