The Open Burning regulation in New Mexico
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).
- Read summaries of the Open Burning regulation and the related Smoke Management regulation
- Download the Open Burning regulation
For complaints about specific open burning incidents, please contact your local NMED 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 produces 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 several hazardous emissions, including dioxins, in New Mexico.
- The Hidden Hazards of Backyard Burning (brochure)
- Open Burning Pollutants – health and environmental effects (fact sheets)
- Quanitative Emissions Estimates and their significance
- Toxic Emissions: Burn Barrels vs. NM Major Industry (graphs) with notes
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 the 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 Leaf Burning Effects and Alternatives
- Read the American Heart Association’s 2010 report: Particulate Matter Pollution and Heart Disease
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.
Specific Provisions of the Open Burning Rule
- NMED does not require permits for legal open burning. However, permits may be required by local governments.
- Burners need to know and follow the state rules for burning
Household trash burning
- Household trash burning is prohibited in New Mexico due to the hazardous pollutants emitted.
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Includes weeds, yard waste, agricultural and prescribed burning
- Same requirements for all burners, depending on size of burn
- The 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
- Download the vegetation burning checklist and guide
- Key requirements
Other types of burning
- Unrestricted (such as campfires, barbecuing and fireplaces)
- Burning for firefighter training
- Emergency burning
- Hazardous waste burning (in accordance with Hazardous Waste regulations)
- Key details
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.
US EPA’s Burn Wise web site
Rural Recycling and Solid Waste Management (NM Recycling Coalition website)
Other States’ Open Burning Information:
For questions about the regulation, please contact:
New Mexico Air Quality Bureau
525 Camino de los Marquez, Suite 2
Santa Fe, NM 87505-1816
Phone: (505) 476-4300, or toll-free at 1-800-224-7009
Fax: (505) 476-4375
E-mail: mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org