Mule Deer and Elk Status Update Presentation - April 23rd

Please join us on April 23rd from 6-8 pm at the Chama Senior Center (next to Lowe’s grocery store) for an informative presentation from Tom Watts, Southwest Wildlife Services. Tom will provide an overview of his report "Mule Deer and Elk Status Report for the San Juan/Chama Basin: 2014-2016 Update" covering population trends of these two species. Tom will also discuss steps landowners can take to support big game populations in our region.

You can read Tom’s first report and the 2016 update on our Resources page here. Scroll down to “Wildlife and Fisheries”

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4th Annual Rio Chama Congreso - Registration Open Now!

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Sponsored by the San Juan-Chama Watershed Partnership, the 4th annual Rio Chama Watershed Congreso is to be held February 23, 2019 from 8 am to 5 pm at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

The congreso concept is that collaborative decision-making can combine local knowledge with scientific management to sustain indigenous cultures, provide educational and economic opportunity for young residents and protect our resources. Last year’s event explored a dozen river and watershed restoration projects that have potential to improve the quality of life for all residents-ranchers, villagers, and recreationists who rely on the Rio Chama. This year’s theme is “Infrastructure Challenges”.

You are invited to participate! Together with students and other citizens, agencies (Forest Service, Game and Fish, State Engineer) and non-governmental organizations (NM Association of Conservation Districts, Chama Peak Land Alliance, Rio Grande Restoration, and others) help to decide how to best address our water and land management challenges in the Chama Basin.

Please SHARE this invitation and if you find others in your community or agency are also interested, by all means urge them to register. There is no charge to participate and lunch is provided. More information, including a full agenda, will be made available on the San Juan-Chama Watershed Partnership website prior to the event.


We're hiring! AmeriCorp VISTA Volunteer for 2019 - Apply by Feb. 15th

The Chama Peak Land Alliance (CPLA) and Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) are hiring the next VISTA Volunteer to support our organizations and the San Juan-Chama Watershed Partnership. This is a NEW position and will have a different focus than the current VISTA position. You can read about the current and past VISTA Volunteers here and learn more about this new opportunity below and on the application page.

Opportunity: We request that interested individuals respond to this inquiry for a Conservation Legacy DOI/AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer position to be based in Chama, New Mexico. This is a 1 year position beginning in March 2019, with the option of extending to a two-year term.
Deadline: Friday, February 15th.

Position Summary: The key purpose of this VISTA Volunteer position is to coordinate outreach to support an initiative that focuses on creating and enhancing multiple linkages between people and the land and waters of the San Juan and Chama watersheds. The people who live in the San Juan – Chama Watershed region are diverse, with many connections to the land and water: spiritual, financial, historical, and emotional. The San Juan – Chama Watershed Partnership honors the many links that exist between all these people and the land and water of these watersheds, with emphasis on funding and coordinating watershed and forest health improvements that preserve the land and water for both local residents and downstream water users. This VISTA Volunteer position will support existing programs and generate new opportunities to create links between the Rio Chama (and the San Juan) watershed with an emphasis on natural resources and the people who live within the watershed as well as those who live downstream who benefit from Natural Resources provided by the watershed. The VISTA’s efforts will help alleviate poverty and empower community members in the region by providing education and skill development opportunities for natural resource workers, small business owners, and other partnerships in the region. The VISTA position will help the San Juan – Chama Watershed Partnership build sustainable capacity by fostering relationships between partners, members, and agency representatives. These relationships will long outlast the VISTA Volunteers’ terms of service. The VISTA will engage in outreach specifically surrounding wildfire mitigation in the region with the intent to further protect the San Juan – Chama Project’s infrastructure and the forested watersheds that surround it.

Qualifications: Preference will be given to individuals who reside locally in the region, however, out of state candidates are welcome to apply. Candidate should have excellent communication skills and have an interest in organizational development, poverty alleviation, and conservation. Both college graduates and non-graduates are encouraged to apply; all applications from those 18 and older will be considered. VISTA Volunteers are government employees and must have a valid U.S. driver’s license.

Stipend and Resources: The VISTA Volunteer will be provided with a monthly stipend that is equivalent to 105% of the poverty line for Rio Arriba County. Housing, utilities, office space, computer, cell phone, and a vehicle will be provided by the Bureau of Reclamation. Other benefits from AmeriCorp include a limited health plan, forbearance on qualified student loans, an educational award, and a professional development stipend.

To learn more about the DOI/VISTA Program:

Apply online HERE

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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