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Our Watershed- Alliance turns vision into action

Editor’s note: This is the eighth and final column in a series that has been running over several consecutive Fridays. It is written by members of the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance, which seeks to foster land stewardship in the Gallinas, Sapello and Tecolote watersheds.

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<div class="image-desc">Volunteers build an erosion control structure called a rock run down using simple local materials in a drainage that feeds Porvenir Creek.</div>
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Courtesy photo
Volunteers build an erosion control structure called a rock run down using simple local materials in a drainage that feeds Porvenir Creek.

The Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance has begun developing a vision for our watershed based on meeting the needs of our entire watershed community. We will continue to foster community involvement in this ongoing process while simultaneously moving forward to implement projects that are in keeping with pieces of the vision that have already coalesced.

These pieces include ensuring that we have places to grow food, produce firewood and building materials, places to grow up and to grow old. They also include places to get outside and play, to connect our community with our watershed. They include a healthy landscape supporting fish, wildlife, vital plant communities and intact soils.

We envision land that is managed in a balanced way to provide for the watershed ecosystem and its human inhabitants. This includes a corridor of healthy functioning riparian habitat along the entire length of our rivers and streams. It also includes diverse and productive forests and meadows. We envision using the land but also giving something back.

Our water supply puzzle includes climate and how our behaviors affect that climate. It extends to our watershed, which receives, holds and conveys water to us. It includes the city’s infrastructure for water acquisition, storage, filtration and distribution. It involves how we use this precious resource in our daily lives and how we manage our water re-use.

We hope this series has helped foster a holistic understanding and begun to inspire a community vision as to what the Gallinas River Watershed can become. What really matters though, is what we DO with that knowledge. The Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance looks for doable, creative and collaborative ways to put that vision and understanding into action. We also help find complementary funds, through both government and non-government avenues, to get the work done and bring resources into our community.

Here are some specific efforts that our watershed alliance is working on to help restore and maintain the health of our watershed — work that puts ideals into action.

River, Riparian and Floodplain Restoration: We facilitate river restoration projects that restore meanders to rivers, reduce streambank erosion and entrenchment, improve water storage in floodplains and resilience to floods, restore wetlands to the system and improve riparian vegetation. We also look for places still in good shape and pursue mechanisms to keep them that way.

River Friendly Landscaping: We provide technical expertise and physical assistance to develop landscaping that is useful and beautiful for the river and watershed. Landscaping is done with beneficial riparian vegetation but also fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs.

Upland Land Management: We help to restore the health of upland areas, our watershed’s sponge. First we explore better ways of managing the land and help to find funding to make needed changes. Then we help to fix problems like helping landowners heal the scars of erosion (e.g. arroyos), and prevent future erosion by installing natural structures that slow and redirect water and by reestablishing healthy plant cover.

Improved Livestock Management: We assist in developing and implementing improved livestock management plans that include strategically located fences, improved water sources, and finding alternative pastures, so resting some areas is viable.

Community Participation: We work hard to help develop personal understanding and connection with the land in our watershed. Mostly this is fostered by doing. We help community volunteers roll up their sleeves to combine learning with real work on the land.

This year on May 4 we host the Gallinas River Spring Cleaning. Then, look for Gallinas Watershed Olympics on Oct. 12, a fun way to learn about and celebrate our watershed.

Education Programs: Complementing the efforts of Friends of the Las Vegas Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Acequia Association, we are helping to build education programs for kids. This includes school programs during both the school year and the summer. We need help from volunteers to make this happen.

We are working with community members and the city of Las Vegas to develop plans to revitalize the Skating Pond and develop a Montezuma Recreation Area. As this project develops we hope it will include paths connecting Las Vegas to Montezuma, green infrastructure and watershed education opportunities for schools and residents.

You can help our watershed by caring for your land in a watershed sensitive manner, by helping neighbors with their work and by practicing water conservation measures. Local organizations and government agencies need your help too. Learn more about giving back to the watershed by getting out and experiencing it personally.

Each of us lives in a watershed. We are all stewards of the land in some way. We can all contribute. It takes a community to raise a child and a community to care for its watershed.

Savor a long cold drink of pure clean water. Get out and fall in love with the land that provides it to us — our watershed. Go on an adventure, catch a fish, or take a drive, your watershed is right out the back door. Then do what you can to help keep it healthy!

For more information or to get on the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance mailing list to hear about events and volunteer opportunities, visit hermitspeakwatersheds.org or call us at 425-5514.