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.

 
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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: www.chamapeak.org/landowner-resources.

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.

Agenda:

  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.


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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!

Congratulations to the CPLA high-school scholarship winners!

Each year the Alliance offers scholarships to graduating high school seniors at Escalante and Pagosa Springs High Schools to support advanced studies at any university or technical college. These scholarships are sponsored by Trout Stalker Ranch, of Chama, New Mexico and the 262 Ranch, of Tierra Amarila, New Mexico. Students do not need to be majoring in conservation or the biological sciences, but must write an essay describing why private land conservation is meaningful to them.

Our scholarship recipients this year are: Hailey Rose, Keena Murphy, Kyle Garcia, Roland Sanchez, Keeton Laverty, Kimberly Armendarez, Shannon Terrazas, Andres Martinez, Martina Mercure, Sara Hurd, William Russom, Tanner Cooper, and Marrisa Baca. Please join us in congratulating these well-deserving students and wishing them the best for their college careers! Student biographies and pictures can be viewed HERE.

Application materials are available through each school's counselor's office during the winter semester of each school year.

Blanco Basin Field Tour - August 24th

Are you a resident of the Navajo River or Rio Blanco basins? If so, please join us on August 24th from 2-4 pm for a tour and discussion of recent forest thinning work on private land in the Blanco Basin. All others interested in this type of work are also invited! Thinning projects completed this summer are intended to improve over all forest health and resistance to high-intensity wildfire. This tour provides an opportunity to view completed treatments and discuss future work, network with neighbors, as well as hear from our federal, state and non-profit partners regarding their work in the basin and other funding opportunities. Representatives from the US Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), two local partnerships, the Chama Peak Land Alliance, and others will be there. 

Light lunch provided.

When: August 24th, 2 - 4 pm

Where: Sandlin Niccum’s “Dairy Barn” at 12130 CR 326, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147. Go PASSED this address and follow the road all the way to the end. There is a sign that says “hikers and horses welcome no motorized vehicles” Follow this driveway and the road will split to the left through a gate. Head in to the ranch and the barn will be on the left.

RVSPs are appreciated. Please reply to emily.hohman@chamapeak.org or call 888-445-7708 ext. 0. Please forward to others who may be interested in joining us for this informational tour.

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Pre-treatment

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Post-treatment

CPLA comments on NMGF proposed rule changes

You may have heard that the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) is seeking public comment on on proposed revisions to the deer, elk, and elk private lands use system rules. The Department "is proposing changes in deer, elk and the elk private lands use system (E-PLUS) across the state, including; splitting the deer archery season into 2 distinct seasons (September and January), adjusting licenses, adding new hunts, increasing elk harvest in some areas and establishing criteria to better administer the E-PLUS program."

The proposals can be viewed at the department's website at: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/commission/proposals-under-consideration/

The Chama Peak Land Alliance has submitted a letter of comment on these proposed rule changes. You can read that letter here.

You can submit comments by mail: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Attn: Big Game Rule Development, P.O. Box 25112, Santa Fe, NM 87504 or by email to DGF-Deer-Rules@state.nm.us; DGF-Elk-Rules@state.nm.us; DGF-EPLUS-Rules@state.nm.us,

Prescribed Fire Training Opportunity - San Juan TREX this September

Are you interested in gaining experience with prescribed fire? Another Prescribed Fire Training Exchange is happening in our region from September 5th to 16th! See the below announcement and link to the application to participate in the San Juan TREX. The Chama Peak Land Alliance is leading a broad partnership effort to coordinate and implement this TREX on private and public lands.

If you don't have the required training we will provide self-study materials. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is available for loan. Burns may take place across multiple jurisdictions covering a wide geographical area. The registration fee may be waived for local partners, landowners, and members of volunteer fire departments on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us with any questions!

Emily Hohman: 888-445-7708 ext. 1

Application and more information available HERE.

Flyer and Announcement downloadable at these links.