August 2022 Sustainability Newsletter

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August 2022 Newsletter



Avo holding the earth

Santa Fe County Adopts Community Solar Ordinance


On July 12, the Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) passed an ordinance to better allow for community solar projects in the County. These new projects present an exciting opportunity for renters and households without their own solar panels to go green and save money on electric bills. The County’s ordinance follows the passage of the Community Solar Act by the New Mexico State Legislature in 2021 and the adoption of the Community Solar Rule by the Public Regulation Commission in March 2022.

The Community Solar Act created a program through which electric utility customers may subscribe to a community solar facility to offset their energy consumption and reduce their energy costs. Subscribers receive a bill credit that is proportional to their share of the solar facility’s energy output. Community solar facilities can be up to five megawatts in size or large enough to support about 1,250 homes. Facilities are required to have at least 10 subscribers and reserve 30% of the electricity produced for low-income customers and service organizations. At least 40% of the facility’s generating capacity must be made available in subscriptions of 25 kilowatts or less.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) will engage a third-party administrator to manage a competitive process to select community solar projects. The new County ordinance amends the Sustainable Land Development Code to facilitate the development of community solar projects to serve County residents. The ordinance includes design standards for the facilities, including a requirement to reseed disturbed areas with native plants to provide habitat for pollinators. Click here to watch the BCC presentation on the new ordinance (presentation begins at 3 hr. 51 minutes).

Residential energy use accounts for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions countywide. The County Growth Management Department reported 271 residential solar permits were issued in 2021-- a good sign that the County is moving in the right direction. The launch of community solar will play a key role in expanding access even more to reduce emissions and save residents money on their electric bills!

Northern New Mexico Master Naturalist Program

Master Naturalist

The Northern New Mexico Master Naturalist Program trains individuals to become stewards of New Mexico’s environment and heritage. The program is through a partnership between the Santa Fe County Open Space, Trails, and Parks Program, Santa Fe Botanical Garden, and Audubon Southwest. Participants attend a series of lectures and field trips throughout Santa Fe County over the course of three months to deepen their knowledge of New Mexico’s natural history and environment. They then apply their knowledge by completing 30 hours of volunteer work with a Master Naturalist partner organization.

Master Naturalists are important stewards of County Open Space properties. You may see them around helping with community science projects, removing invasive species, planting native wildflowers, and more!

The 2022 Master Naturalist program kicks off this month. Click here to learn more!

What can you do? Nurture a patch of habitat!

FWS monarch

Globally, approximately 25% of species are threatened with extinction in studied plant and animal groups. Habitat loss is one key driver of species loss, with 75% of the Earth’s land surface now significantly altered by human activity. Degradation of ecosystems not only affects plants and animals, it also impacts humans. We rely on healthy ecosystems for clean air and water, healthy soils for growing food, recreation, and a stable climate. 

There is reason to have hope in addressing these challenges. Leaders in science and government are calling for 30% of the Earth’s land and water to be protected by 2030 to address climate change and species loss. Efforts to support the “30x30” initiative are occurring at the federal, state, and local levels. Santa Fe County passed a resolution supporting the effort in 2020. Habitat conservation and restoration is ongoing in Santa Fe County. Just recently, a new population of firefly was discovered on the County’s Los Potreros Open Space. Experts attribute this exciting discovery to management actions that created firefly habitat by improving riparian and wetland ecosystems.

University of Delaware Agriculture and Natural Resources Professor and co-founder of Homegrown National Park, Dr. Doug Tallamy, is a proponent of including backyards in conservation efforts. Backyard habitats can help connect vital ecosystem corridor networks. As Dr. Tallamy explains, "The biggest reason that species disappear from little habitat fragments is that their populations within those habitats are too small. Just random fluctuations of populations will cause them to disappear over time randomly. So if you connect those habitats, again, they’re not isolated, they’re not as small as they used to be, and the more we connect them, the bigger they are, and the effect of tiny population size will disappear."

We all have a role to play in protecting and nurturing habitat. Here are a few things you can do to create a backyard habitat:

  • Opt for native plants: Planting native vegetation is a great way to turn your backyard into a wildlife oasis. Native plants provide an important food source for native wildlife and will help attract butterflies, birds, and beneficial insects to your yard. Plus, native plants are already well-adapted to our environment and low-maintenance once established. Try replacing turf grass with native grass and wildflower seed mixes. Plant milkweed to attract butterflies and add native penstemon to welcome the hummingbirds!
  • Remove invasive plants: Invasive plants are plants that have been introduced into an ecosystem and quickly spread out of control, causing environmental harm. Where possible, remove invasive plant species that can crowd out native plants and degrade habitat in your yard.
  • Provide and protect shelter: Nest boxes, trees, shrubs, and rock walls can all serve as shelter for wildlife. Take care not to disturb any shelters, such as burrows or nests, that you find on your property.
  • Join the backyard habitat movement: Check out the National Wildlife Federation and Homegrown National Park for tips and to register your backyard habitat!

Don’t have a yard? No problem! There are numerous opportunities to get involved in critical community science and habitat restoration efforts in Santa Fe County. Check out organizations like the Santa Fe Conservation Trust, Santa Fe Watershed Association, Audubon Society, Northern New Mexico Master Naturalist Program, Xerces Society, and the Institute for Applied Ecology for volunteer opportunities.

Our August Picks

(Click on orange title below for more information)

Santa Fe County Fair

Santa Fe County Fair

Wednesday- Saturday 

August 3-6

Enjoy the festivities at the Santa Fe County Fair! Visit the County’s website for a schedule of events.


Ready, Set, GROW

Ready, Set, GROW

Wednesday, August 17

3:00 PM

Check out the Ready, Set, Grow webinar series hosted by the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Cooperative Extension Service. This month, Miranda Kersten from the NMSU Agricultural Science Center will be discussing pollinators.

Green Waste

Free Green Waste Disposal Day at Stanley Convenience Center

Friday, August 5 and Saturday, August 6

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Reduce the risk of fire on your property by properly disposing of garden trimmings and other green waste. Santa Fe County is offering free green waste disposal days on August 5-6 for County residents with a valid convenience center permit at the Stanley Convenience Center. Click here for details on what is accepted.


Shakespeare in the Garden

Shakespeare in the Garden

Throughout August

Head over to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden to enjoy Shakespeare in the Garden! Visit the Garden's website for performance dates!

Green Waste

Free Green Waste Disposal Day at the Jacona and Eldorado Convenience Centers

Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM (Saturday)

8:00 AM- 1:00 PM (Sunday)

Reduce the risk of fire on your property by properly disposing of garden trimmings and other green waste. Santa Fe County is offering free green waste disposal on August 6-7 for County residents with a valid convenience center permit at the Jacona and Eldorado Convenience Centers. Click here for details on what is accepted.


Santa Fe Watershed Association

Adopt Your Watershed

Check out the Santa Fe Watershed Association website for ways you can adopt an arroyo or river in your community!


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Sustainability Comments or Questions?

We are your local advisors on all things sustainability in Santa Fe County. Contact us with questions or to suggest topics for future newsletters!


Jacqueline Beam,

Nav Khalsa,

Caitlin Weber,