Air Quality Bureau
The open burning regulation applies to almost all types of outdoor burning, including trash burning and small-scale weed, yard waste, agricultural, and prescribed burning. The regulation applies statewide, except in Bernalillo County and on Tribal and Pueblo Lands (where NMED does not have authority over air quality).
For complaints about specific open burning incidents, please contact your local Environment Department Field Office or the Air Quality Bureau in Santa Fe (505-476-4300 or 1-800-224-7009).
WHY ARE TRASH AND VEGETATION BURNING REGULATED?
The primary purpose of the Open Burning Regulation is to reduce air pollution and protect human health. An additional reason for limiting open burning is to protect New Mexico's scenic vistas.
Backyard trash burning is far more harmful to our health than previously thought. The pollutants produced by backyard trash burning can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema, and cause rashes, nausea, or headaches. Backyard trash burning also produce harmful quantities of dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemicals that settle on crops and in our waterways where they eventually wind up in our food and affect our health. Backyard trash burning is the biggest source of dioxin emissions in New Mexico.
- Download brochure: The Hidden Hazards of Backyard Burning
The open burning of slash, weeds, and yard waste produces particulate matter and hydrocarbons, which contain a number of toxic, irritant, and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds. The smoke also contains carbon monoxide. The air pollutants produced by burning vegetative material can irritate the lungs, cause breathing problems, trigger asthma attacks, increase the chances of respiratory infection, heart attacks and strokes, and cause cancer. Prescribed fire is needed for health of New Mexico's forest and grassland ecosystems, so it is not reasonable to prohibit such burning entirely. Restrictions in this regulation are intended to minimize the impacts of smoke on people, and to prevent burning in residential areas.
- Read Residential Leaf Burning: An Unhealthy Solution to Leaf Disposal
- Read American Heart Association: air pollution is serious cardiovascular risk
Unborn children, newborn infants, smokers, the elderly, and persons with heart and chronic lung disease are more susceptible to these pollutants than the general population.
ABOUT THE OPEN BURNING REGULATION
- Read a Summary of the regulation
- Download the regulation
- History of development of the regulation (draft proposal, public comments, etc.)
Specific Provisions of the Open Burning Rule
- No NMED open burn permits. However, permits may be required by local governments.
- Burners need to know and follow the state rules for burning
HOUSEHOLD TRASH BURNING read more
VEGETATION BURNING read more
- Includes weeds, yard waste, agricultural and prescribed burning
- Same requirements for all burners, depending on size of burn
- Open Burning Regulation is for smaller burns (up to 10 acres per day, or 1,000 cubic feet of piled material per day); Smoke Management Regulation is for larger burns
- Burning must follow requirements in regulation
- Download vegetation burning checklist and guide (Acrobat format)
OTHER TYPES OF BURNING read more
- Types of burning that are unrestricted (campfires, etc.)
- Firefighter training
- Emergency burning
- Hazardous waste
PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS
Under state law (Section 74-2-14 NMSA), violation of the Open Burning regulation is a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. Anyone may file a complaint in Magistrate Court for violations of this regulation. The New Mexico Environment Department also has authority under state law to assess civil penalties for violations.
During the transition to the new regulation, the Environment Department will emphasize information, education, and warnings for first-time violations.
US EPA's Backyard Burning web site
Rural Recycling and Solid Waste Management (NM Recycling Coalition website)
Other States' Open Burning Information:
- Texas (download PDF)
- Oklahoma (download PDF)
- New Hampshire
For questions about the regulation, please contact:
New Mexico Air Quality Bureau
1301 Siler Rd., Building B
Santa Fe, NM 87507
Phone: (505) 476-4300, or toll-free at 1-800-224-7009
Fax: (505) 476-4375