New Mexico is in a unique position with regard to wood fuel because of its low population density and large forest reserves. The amount of fuel wood available for each person in the state is about 3.5 times the national average. The wood available from dead or dying tress alone could provide approximately 20 million BTU of heat energy per person per year, which is close to the average space heating requirement. As long as this waste wood is used for heating and the population remains relatively low, abundant supplies of wood energy should always be available in New Mexico.

The best wood for heating is the densest wood – such as saltcedar. The denser the wood, the more heat it produces. The denser woods tend to have a longer coaling time (the charcoal stage). This significantly increases the time between tendings, and a wood heater can be operated in the automatic mode for longer periods of time.

Discussions with suppliers and consumers of New Mexico fuel woods show a preference for wood which parallels the density of the wood types, as indicated in the following table.

Fuel Characteristics and Geographical Location of New Mexico Fuel Woods


Gambel (Scrub) Oak – Throughout the State except extreme east and south.

Mesquite – South and East.

New Mexico Locust – General, except eastern plains and extreme south

Saltcedar – River valleys and floodplains



Juniper – Entire state

Pinon – Entire state except mideastern section



Douglas Fir – All mountainous areas except extreme south

Ponderosa Pine – All mountainous areas



Aspen – Western two-third of State

Alpine and White Fir and Blue Spruce – Western two-thirds of the state except extreme south

Cottonwood – Common

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