February 2021 Sustainability Newsletter

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February 2021 Newsletter

The Cupid Nature of Nature 


Avo holding the earth
Arroyo Hondo Open Space and Trails

Open Space, Trails, and Parks- Fostering Nature, Love, and Stewardship

Curious about the effects of COVID-19 on the usage patterns of the County's Open Space Programs (OSTP) and the relationships being developed with nature as a result, the Sustainability Office (SO) caught up with Maria Lohmann and Peggy Darr. This team oversees the vital aspects of planning, operations, and conservation for up to 60 miles of a vast network of trails  meandering through publicly used ecosystems, wildlife treasures, and unique vistas. 

SO: What has been happening this past year on the trails? Have you noticed a difference in usage? 

OSTP: More than ever we are seeing our properties are being used—really more than we have ever seen before. And we recognize that these open spaces are more important than ever since the pandemic. Increased usage can have negative impacts, but with the help of our Master Naturalist volunteers, we will work to minimize damage. That is a positive aspect to all of this, through of our involvement with the Master Naturalist program, we have 30 trained specialists who can assist with our goals of stewardship and conservation.

SO: What plants and wildlife in particular are you focusing on right now?

OSTP: We are working to increase climate resiliency for numerous different habitat types on our properties, especially in relation to keystone species such as the Pinyon Jay, which is one of the primary seed distributors for piñon-juniper ecosystems.   

SO: How do you prioritize and strategize your goals for the Department?

OSTP: Our focus is on progressive and science-based management; we aim to lead by example (County Resolution 2013-7) and conduct research and habitat management that benefits our open spaces, as well as other lands throughout northern New Mexico. Our partner organizations include the Santa Fe County Wildland Fire Team, Master Naturalist volunteers, the Santa Fe Watershed Association, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, and Audubon Southwest, to name a few. We are all striving to provide for our communities, conserve nature, and mitigate the effects of climate change—together. 

SO: Well, I know that these areas are incredibly beloved by the community and we so much appreciate all of the hard work that you do to keep them alive and thriving for us. If you could bullet point some of the focal points for the coming year in restoration and planting what would they be?

OSTP: Balancing human recreation with conservation of natural resources and wildlife, so people can continue to enjoy these environments. Specifically, we are restoring piñon-juniper, wetland, riparian and ponderosa pine forest habitats. 

SO: You have an annual presentation coming up with the Board of County Commissioners (BCC)?

OSTP: Yes, as part of our 2019 Strategic Plan, we are required to present on our progress each year. Our core elements within that plan include working together, through the diversity of lands and groups for all of our mutual benefit, to consider the impact on the outdoors that recreational use has, as well as stewardship and education and of course, meaningfully unique outdoor experiences.

SO: Those are lofty and worthwhile goals! How do you approach the end game with so many challenges, especially this year?

OSTP: Our challenges are really in the heavily trodden spaces, the impacts on the favorite places for all of us. We have struggled to find ways to educate as we have in the past, given the limits of virtual platforms for connecting to nature. This has forced us to extend beyond our usual ways, to be more creative in outreach. The best thing to come out of the collective refocus is understanding how important it is to get outside, which is super exciting, but also others are recognizing the importance of providing safe, meaningful, and conserved areas in response. Not only getting outside, but bird watching has increased exponentially, and people are realizing we are not disconnected from nature. It provides essential therapy and resources we need to survive! That's been great to watch.  

For more heart-warming fun and relationship-building with our unique natural habitats and parks, check out the Open Space and Trails website pages and look for the annual report presentation at the BCC meeting on February 23 to learn more about the exciting projects they are working on to further preserve our beautiful landscapes and wildlife!

Safe Routes to School Map

SFPS, County and City collaborate to provide more safe routes to school

Santa Fe Public Schools Sustainability Program Specialist, Elena Kayak reports "Good news in the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and Safe Routes to Parks (SRTP) arena! This year Santa Fe will see these two nationally recognized programs starting to develop stronger and safer connectivity for students and their families to cycle and and walk to school and parks, especially in light of the physical and mental health benefits of active transportation and movement during the pandemic.

"Scott Kaseman, Real Property Supervisor, and Carrie Olson, Project Manager II, of the Santa Fe County Public Works Projects Division, have been key contributors to the improvement of safety and connections on the southside of the city, with special focus on the El Camino Real Academy campus and the Cottonwood Village Mobile Home Park. The Santa Fe Conservation Trust will be coordinating the SRTS grant and the Santa Fe Railyard Park Conservancy will lead the SRTP grant; we will keep you posted on our progress!"  

Make Soil

Food Scraps Make Soil; Make Life

What a better way to love the earth than by composting? Composting food and yard waste returns nutrients to the soil, improving soil health, increasing water retention in soils, supporting native plants, and reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Unfortunately, nearly one quarter of all waste that ends up in the landfill is food waste. This food rotting under anaerobic conditions creates methane gas, and the nutrients are not returned to the soil. Shockingly, landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. Diverting food waste from landfills is truly low hanging fruit to improve the health of the planet. And it’s easy!

Whether or not you have your own compost pile or even a yard to put it in, everyone can join MakeSoil. MakeSoil connects composters with folks who have food scraps and/or yard waste. Anyone from home composters to business can create a map entry, called a “Soil Site.” Residents who want to compost food scraps, but don’t have or don’t want their own compost pile, can connect with these Soil Sites to drop off their food scraps and/or yard waste. Soil Sites can specify what kind of materials they accept, and how often they accept drop-offs. We would love to see a Soil Site, large or small, in every neighborhood across the county!

If you are interested in becoming a Soil Site but need some help getting started, we've put together some helpful resources here. Santa Fe County will also soon be launching the next round of our Backyard Composting Program, where we help Santa Fe county residents get started with everything they need for their own backyard composting system, including setup, tools, and training—free of cost. If you are interested in participating, please contact Adeline Murthy at 505-992-9862 or amurthy@santafecountynm.gov. This is a need-based program, so we will be asking interested residents to fill out a short survey. And tell your friends and neighbors about composting and MakeSoil! After all, caring for the health of our land and air is a community effort.


What Can I Do? Show LOVE to a Patch!

Pockets of natural areas are called "patches." These provide pollinators and wildlife with habitats and corridors they need to do their valuable work. Every little patch helps, no matter the size, from gardens and urban landscapes to rural forest patches, and everything else in between. Trees for example, which have been receiving much deserving attention through the numerous planting programs across the globe, reduce erosion, mitigate the urban heat island effect, provide habitat for wildlife, and clean our precious air. Even if you don't have a yard to call your own, you can volunteer to help increase the health and biodiversity of an area through the many gardening or conservation organizations within our community, or adopt-a-patch (arroyo) in collaboration with your landlord or neighborhood! Our health is directly linked to the health of the planet. And a little here and there, done by everyone, goes a long way to create the difference that matters! Send us a photo of your patch and tell us your nature love story so that we can feature your love-for-the-land in action and inspire others to participate in this joyful work!

Our February Picks

(Click on orange title and text below for associated links and information.)

Love your river day

15th Annual Love Your River Day

February 12-14

Join the Santa Fe Watershed Association for their 15th annual Love Your River Day, a three day river clean-up event from February 12-14. Click here to register and for details on how to send the river a valentine (and yes, there are prizes!).

fixit clinic logo

Virtual Fixit Clinic!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Sponsored by Santa Fe County Sustainability Office and Hosted by Recycle New Mexico, this is a great way to spend a few hours learning how to fix things rather than adding to the waste stream! Turn on your computer and learn fixing skills with others in the community! 

Register here.

Food for Love

Food for Love Virtual Concert

February 13, 5:00 p.m.

Join us for a star-studded virtual concert on Valentine's Eve to help feed New Mexicans facing hunger. Watch the show here!

Land Witness Project

Listen to Beata Tsotsie-Peña's Climate Story

February 10, 4:00 p.m.

Beata Tsotsie-Peña of Tewa Women United has partnered with the Land Witness Project to tell her climate story. The video will be posted here.

roof top solar

Solar Tax Credit Extended!

The federal 26% tax credit for residential solar was extended an additional two years! You can now take advantage of this tax credit until December 2022. Learn how to get started with solar here.


Track the 2021 Legislative Session

The New Mexico legislature will be in session the entire month of February, until March 20. See the Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter handy legislative tracker tool that focuses on priority bills supporting the protection of the environment and health of New Mexicans.

Sustainability Comments or Questions?

We are your local advisors on all things sustainability in Santa Fe County. Call us about anything from water conservation, cleaner transportation, solar and renewable energy, composting, recycling, etc. Or let us know what you would like to learn more about in our newsletter. 


Jacqueline Beam, 505.992.9832

Adeline Murthy, 505.992.9862