during a volunteer work weekend.
March 2017 Public Lands Alliance Member Spotlight
By Amanda Keith, Marketing and Communications Manager,
Public Lands Alliance
Los Amigos de Valles Caldera is a friends group in northern New Mexico with a mission to fundraise and support the Valles Caldera National Preserve. This preserve, roughly an hour northwest of Santa Fe, consists of 89,000 acres of valleys and meadows, meandering streams, large herds of elk and one ancient supervolcano.
The friends group began in 2006 and initially focused their efforts on environmental restoration projects in the preserve. According to Peggy Gautier, Chair of Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, the last two centuries of human activity on the land has degraded its natural resources.
“We like to say this land was ‘rode hard and put up wet,’” she began. Formerly owned as a private ranch, the preserve has faced issues with over-grazing from sheep and cattle, has gone through multiple wildfires and was clear-cut for several years for logging purposes.
“When the friends group first started,” Gautier explained, “the board chose to look for grants to improve the watershed and wetlands. This area is not only gorgeous and special in its own right, but it is the headwaters for many creeks and streams that feed into the Jemez River.”
Since then, the group has helped raised approximately $1.5 million in grants (funds that went directly to restore the preserve) and have provided a volunteer match of over $450,000. Each year, they oversee summer work weekends and invite volunteers to work on trails, control erosion and improve habitat.
“This is physically challenging work,” Gautier said. These volunteers help haul rocks, dig and move sod, create protective barriers around bog birch saplings to protect them from elk, along with other tasks. In return, volunteers camp near the worksite and Los Amigos, in partnership with the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation, provide the volunteers with most of the food throughout the weekend.
Valles Caldera National Preserve.