Scholarship Opportunity for High School Seniors

The Chama Peak Land Alliance is pleased to once again support scholarships for conservation-minded area high school seniors who plan to pursue additional education after graduating in the spring of 2019. Scholarships are available to Pagosa Springs High School and Escalante High School seniors who are pursuing a degree or training at any university, college, or technical school. One first-place award of $1,000 and a runner-up award of $500 are available at each school.

Interested students should contact their school’s counselor’s office for application materials and information regarding submission deadlines.

Providing scholarships to deserving high school students is part of the Alliance’s Education and Economy Program. Biographies of our 2018 scholarship awardees can be viewed by clicking here.

RCPP Grant Round Two Application Period Open Now

A second signup period for the San Juan - Rio Chama RCPP grant is open now until January 18, 2019. Previous applications received after the first signup deadline will be included in this round. Only applications for Forest/Woodland projects are currently being accepted as funds for irrigation and grazing projects have been fully allocated.

This grant is a collaborative project to implement on-the-ground conservation practices across a large region of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, including the Alliance region. The  program and application process will be managed by the East Rio Arriba Soil and Water Conservation District. 

Private landowners and public land lessees within the project boundary may be eligible for project funds.

For more information, contact Norman Vigil (575-684-0042) or call the East Rio Arriba SWCD office (505-753-0477).

Read more about the RCPP Grant and find application materials HERE.

CPLA Winter Social February 1st! Join us!

You are Invited!

Please join us for our 2019 Winter Social! We will have food, networking, and an informative speaker on Environmental Education! All CPLA members, neighbors, and friends are invited—open to all! This is a great opportunity to meet other members, landowners and managers, and hear about the exciting projects and events we have planned for 2019.

Speaker: Claudia Reynoso, science teacher at Escalante High School and CPLA Board Member, will speak about her efforts to engage students with hands-on science learning in and outside the classroom!

February 1, 2019 at 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm at the Upper Chama Soil and Water Conservation District office in Tierra Amarilla (across from the Post Office).

Having fun during a forest health presentation by Mary Stuever at the 2018 Winter Social.

Having fun during a forest health presentation by Mary Stuever at the 2018 Winter Social.


Prescribed Fire on Private Lands Workshop Jan 25th

Have you ever considered using prescribed fire - also called controlled burning - as a land management tool on property you own or manage? Are you curious about why fire is an important management tool, what the process is, or what resources are available for private lands? If so, then please join us on Friday, January 25th for a workshop on prescribed fire on private lands in Chama, NM. We will cover a broad range of topics applicable to private lands, with a focus on the nuts and bolts of implementation from planning to burn day. We will also discuss permitting, state laws, liability and risk management. Landowners and managers will come away with clear next steps and an understanding of the process required to take full advantage of resources for prescribed fire that are available right now in our region! Early planning is important in order to implement a burn when environmental conditions are right, so please join us this month for this important discussion!

This free workshop is sponsored and led by the Chama Peak Land Alliance with support from our partners at the Forest Stewards Guild and The Nature Conservancy’s Fire Learning Network.

Friday, January 25, 2019 from 9 am to 4 pm at the Chama Senior Center next to Lowe’s grocery store in Chama, NM. Light lunch provided. No RSVP necessary.

Topics to Be Covered:

  • Why use fire for land management (forest or range), seasonal and other considerations

  • Timeline for implementation - the process start to finish

  • Resources available to private lands

  • Planning - burn unit design, burn plans, pre-burn preparation, permitting

  • Operations - implementing a burn, monitoring and patrolling a burn, how landowners can be involved

  • Liability and regulations - state laws in CO and NM, country ordinances (Archuleta and Rio Arriba), the liability of the burn leader, risk management and risk mitigation techniques

  • Insurance - available products, how state laws influence, what insurance contractors carry

  • Burn planning discussion - discuss an example burn unit, planning, and operational considerations

  • Planning for wildfire and prescribed fire across a large landscape

View the full agenda HERE.

Low intensity prescribed fire for habitat improvement on private land near Chama, NM.

Low intensity prescribed fire for habitat improvement on private land near Chama, NM.


Archuleta County: New County Process for Burning Large Piles on Private Land

If you are a resident of Archuleta County, CO you may know that the County has previously restricted open burning of piles on private land to piles no larger than 4x4x4 feet in size. Over the last few months the County, with input from Alliance staff, has amended the pile burn ordinance to provide a new mechanism for landowners to burn larger piles. This amended ordinance is primarily targeted at landowners who are engaged in forestry projects, such as thinning, that produce byproduct, such as limbs and small diameter material, that is most cost-effectively removed by burning in piles.

The amended ordinance requires landowners to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding Covering Burns (MOUCB) with the County. This MOUCB consists of a simple application and submission of a pile burn plan. The pile burn plan outlines in writing where, what, when, and how piles are to be burned. The MOUCB is good for five years once approved.

The MOUCB application can be found HERE. An example pile burn plan can be found HERE. This pile burn plan is an example for reference only; landowners may use this plan or complete one of their own, provided all required information is included (see the MOU for requirements).

The Alliance stands ready to assist landowners in navigating this process, including assisting with pile burn plans or connecting landowners to independent contractors available to write pile burn plans and complete pile burns. Contact Emily Hohman, Executive Director by email or phone at 888-445-7708 ext. 1.

Archuleta County Office of Emergency Management can be reached at 970-731-4799 and staff information is available on their website.


CPLA Comments on Proposed Elk Rule Changes

The Alliance has submitted a comment letter to the New Mexico Game Commission regarding proposed elk rule changes. You can read the proposed changes and view instructions on how to comment on the NMGF website here (see Proposed Changes to the Elk Rule 19.31.14 NMAC).

Below is the full text of the Alliance’s letter to the Commission:

To the New Mexico Game Commission:

The Chama Peak Land Alliance (Alliance) is a diverse group of conservation-minded landowners committed to embracing and practicing responsible land, water and wildlife stewardship in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico for the benefit of our tri-cultural heritage and for generations to come. In northern New Mexico, the private landowners represented by the Alliance own and manage ecologically important private lands, including primary migration corridors for mule deer and elk from high elevation summer ranges to lower elevation winter habitats. These landowners are invested in practicing good land and wildlife management to ensure the long-term viability of deer and elk populations in this landscape, as well as overall ecosystem health. Additionally, our rural communities are dependent on the tourism and hunting economy supported by healthy wildlife populations.

This letter is in regards to proposed changes to the elk rules (19.31.14 NMAC) and specifically the existing and proposed rules for GMU 4, a unit differentiated from other GMUs by the predominance of private vs. public land. Indeed, the entirety of GMU 4 consists of private land with the exception of the three state managed wildlife areas, the Rio Chama, the Humphrees, and the Sargents. Because of this predominance of private land GMU 4 is unique and the Alliance believes that it should be managed to take this uniqueness into account rather than managed identically to other units that include a higher proportion of public land. This area also includes important elk migratory corridors from high elevation habitats to lower elevation wintering grounds.

There has been a long-term decline in the calf:cow ratio in both the North-central elk herd (the herd in GMU 4) and in the regional elk herd. Declining herd productivity could lead to lower elk numbers and fewer bulls available for harvest in the long-term. While surrounding jurisdictions have responded to decreasing calf:cow ratios by reducing cow elk harvest, cow harvest in the North-central elk herd has increased substantially in the past 10 years, nearly doubling.  Bull elk harvest in the North-central herd also has trended sharply upward for the past 10 years. The Alliance recently contracted Tom Watts, of Southwest Wildlife Services, to complete an update of his 2014 assessment of mule deer and elk population data in the San Juan-Chama basin. This assessment indicated this regional population trend. The report can be found at:

We offer the following comments and suggestions regarding elk management rules in GMU 4:

1) GMU 4 should be recognized as unique due the high prevalence of private land, with the exception of the wildlife management areas, and should be managed accordingly.

2) GMU 4 is currently managed as an opportunity unit similar to other units with different ratio of private:public ownership.  We suggest this unit should instead be managed as a trophy unit or as an opportunity unit with special restrictions, in order to better manage the elk cow:bull and cow:calf ratios in this population.   

3) We suggest shortening the hunt season for this GMU to allow elk to breed and migrate with less interference from hunting activity. For instance, starting the season to coincide with the season start on the WMAs in early October and ending on December 1 would reduce stress on elk during migration and potentially improve breeding success during the rut.  

4) Special Management Properties should be limited to the authorizations requested in the management plan and should not be allowed to transfer additional tags into the property.

5) The archery season on private land should be Sept. 1 through Sept 24. There is no need for a split season on private lands as these properties are already limited by authorizations and private landowners should be able to hunt their property the full season. 

We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments on the Department’s proposed changes to the elk rules in GMU 4. Our Board, staff, and private landowner members are deeply committed to working with each other, our communities, and our agency partners to practice and promote responsible land and wildlife management in New Mexico.

Please contact me with any questions regarding our comments in this letter or if we can be of further assistance. Thank you.

San Juan-Chama Watershed Partnership Meeting - Nov. 9th

Please join the Chama Peak Land Alliance and a multitude of conservation partners, landowners, community members, and others on November 9th for the next San Juan-Chama Watershed Partnership meeting. The agenda for this meeting will include organizational items that will determine how the Partnership will work together in coming years, committee breakouts, and discussions around local watershed issues and potential Partnership activities.

Everyone is welcome!

Tierra Amarilla has no restaurant or cafe options for lunch. Please plan to bring your own lunch OR we will make a group order and pickup from the Subway in Chama. To look ahead at sandwich options and pricing, you can view the menu on the Subway website.

Nov. 9th at 10 am - 3 pm at the Rio Arriba County Administration Complex in Tierra Amarilla.


  1. Welcome and Introductions (10:00 – 10:30)

  2. Organizational Items (10:30 – 11:30)

  3. Break out for committees for initial re-organization (11:30 – 12:00)

    • Biomass

    • Workforce

    • Planning

    • Rio Chama Congreso

  4. Lunch (12:00 – 1:00)

  5. Local Watershed Issues (1:00 – 2:30)

    • Manny Trujillo

    • Mary Steuver

  6. Moving Forward with Partnership Activities (2:30 – 3:00)

  7. Adjourn (3:00)

You can find upcoming events on the Partnerships website by clicking HERE.

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CPLA Comments on Village at Wolf Creek Pass Road Access Project

As you may have heard recently the Forest Service has decided to grant road access across USFS lands for access to a private parcel proposed for development into the Village at Wolf Creek. Last year the "land swap" option initially proposed was invalidated by a federal court that found the environmental analysis on which the land swap proposal was made to be insufficient. The "road corridor" option was examined as part of this same analysis and was deemed a less desirable option at the time.

Because the environmental analysis was completed more than five years ago and a federal court has deemed it to be insufficient, the Alliance feels that the best course of action is for the Forest Service to complete a new analysis that takes into account new and better information available today. The proposed development is almost certain to have adverse effects on wildlife and water resources, as well as put additional pressure on municipal and emergency services in Mineral and Archuleta Counties.

You can read more about the recent developments in this long-running controversy in this article from the Durango Herald. Read our comments to the Forest Service here.

The Wolf Creek landscape. Photographer unknown.

The Wolf Creek landscape. Photographer unknown.

Blanco Basin tour highlights!

Last week we hosted a short tour and discussion about the recent and on-going forest thinning projects occurring in the Blanco and Navajo Basins. This particular tour focused on work in the upper part of the Blanco Basin where eight landowners have partnered this year with the Alliance to improve forest health and wildfire resilience on their land. We were graciously hosted at the Reed-Hare Ranch (thank you Sandlin and Jerry!) where we discussed the funding source and partners supporting the on-ground work, regional collaborative efforts, heard from our US Forest Service partner about their recent decision to focus more resources in the basin, and viewed one of the mastication thinning treatments on the Ranch.

About 40 people attended, with mostly our landowner partners. We also had representation from the US Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), The Nature Conservancy, the Bureau of Reclamation, and two regional partnerships - the San Juan-Chama Watershed Partnership and the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership, in addition to Alliance staff. Thank you to all our friends and neighbors who attended on Friday!

You can read more about the Navajo-Blanco Resiliency Project HERE, including a downloadable fact sheet and more information on the US Forest Service's "Blanco Basin Vegetation Management Project".

All pictures courtesy of Caitlin Barbour, CPLA/BOR AmeriCorp VISTA Volunteer.

CPLA welcomes new Board Member - Claudia Reynoso!

The Chama Peak Land Alliance is pleased to welcome Claudia Reynoso to the Board of Directors! We are very excited to have Claudia provide her expertise and enthusiasm for natural resources, youth education, and the environment of Northern New Mexico to help further the mission of the Alliance. Thank you, Claudia, for sharing your time and expertise with us!

Keep reading below for a biography of Claudia and remember you can read about all our Board Members HERE.

Claudia Reynoso 2.png

Claudia is a Middle-High School science teacher at Escalante Middle High School in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. Claudia graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor's in Conservation Biology (2014) and Masters in Natural Resources (2017). Claudia has studied the effects of fire and invasive species on the native Arizona Grey squirrel in the Catalina Mountains, ecosystem services provided by the Mexican Free-tailed bat, payments for ecosystem services, wildlife and natural resource management, and the benefits of urban green spaces (e.g. parks, trees, green infrastructure etc.) on urban dwellers.

Claudia is determined to educate our youth about the importance of natural resources to promote stewardship and a conservation minded economy. Claudia’s passion for the natural world has led her to advocate for outdoor programing, as this is known to promote stewardship and have health benefits to children. Claudia’s vision is that our students will come out with a deep appreciation for the process of nature and the role science plays in understanding these processes.

Claudia once lived in Northern New Mexico and remembers playing in great fields and hay stacks. This left a lasting memory that influenced her decision to return. Claudia’s goal was to come back and tend the land her dad purchased in a beautiful pocket of the Carson National forest. After 20 years, Claudia returned to Northern New Mexico because deep down she this is where her heart has always been.

Welcome, Claudia!