Updated: Nov 17, 2019
By Jan-Willem Jansens
In 1996, a severe drought scorched New Mexico. The pattern was similar to this year, with dry months and heavy monsoon rains. But we didn’t suspect this would be the beginning of a 20 year drought, ending a 30 year wet period.
In 1998, after the Galisteo Basin experienced the drought and then devastating flooding and erosion, the Galisteo Watershed Restoration Project was established.
This has led to an unparalleled, collaborative push for conservation in the Basin.
The Santa Fe Conservation Trust, the Earth Works Institute, WildEarth Guardians, Ecotone Landscape Planning, government agencies, community groups, landowners, and private charitable foundations have done a lot:
· Ecological functions of riparian areas, forests, woodlands and grasslands were restored across hundreds of acres.
· More than 130,000 acres of the watershed area have been protected or brought under responsible management.
· Twenty eight acres of Galisteo bosque wetland in the village of Galisteo has been restored.
· More than two miles of streams and wetlands have been stabilized.
· Miles of trails have been developed in the Galisteo Basin Preserve and Eldorado Community Preserve.
· The projected Railrunner alignment was diverted from the Basin to running parallel to I-25.
· Oil and gas drilling in the Galisteo Basin was stopped and one of the most stringent ordinances in the nation was passed to regulate oil and gas development.
· Santa Fe County established the Sustainable Growth Management Plan, informed in part by the approach to conservation planning in the Galisteo Basin.
· Gravel mining on La Bajada Mesa was averted.
· Gold mining in the Ortiz Mountains was averted.
· A rail transfer point for crude oil in Lamy was averted.
· Two million dollars raised for restoration projects over 20 years.
We have all been like terriers, with the Basin’s survival in our jaws. And we won’t let go.
By the way, this years’ repeat of large, overbank floods did not result in any damage from soil erosion on restored properties.
Jan-Willem Jansens is a landscape planner and the owner of Ecotone Landscape Planning, LLC. He is the former executive director of Earth Works Institute and was cofounder of the Galisteo Watershed Partnership and New Mexico Wildways.
This excerpt is from The Galisteo Basin, a coffee table book edited by Galistean John Miller, available as a gift with a $75 donation to La Sala.