By Greg Kendall
Volunteers create a ‘Zuni’ rock bowl. Bill Zeedyk of Zeedyk Ecological Consulting has co-designed an innovative water retention structure called a ‘Zuni’ rock bowl which creates small meandering pools along a creek path. Zeedyk advises Los Amigos on riparian restoration at the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Courtesy/Los Amigos de Valles Caldera
Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, the non-profit “friends” organization of the Valles Caldera National Preserve was formed in 2006 to help the Preserve accomplish its many goals. Now in its sixth year, the Amigos can point to substantial progress from their efforts.
Major progress has been made in the area of environmental restoration. The Amigos have raised more than $750,000 and received $100,000 in in-kind volunteer hours for their ongoing restoration projects.
“We’ve gotten a lot of work done,” said Los Amigos Vice Chair and Projects Manager Barbara Johnson. “We finished our first grant, which was a wetland grant and that grant allowed us to do a complete inventory and assessment of the Valle San Antonio. That assessment allowed us to make applications for further grants to do more work and that really has been the basis for the other three San Antonio grants we have received.
“And then on the basis of that first wetlands grant, we have done significant work on Alamo Bog. We put a lot of fences around the [endangered] Bog Burch and they are taking off and doing well. Now this other wetlands grant we are considering is going to be right in the area along the road [to Alamo Bog near Sulfur Creek.]”
More environmental and rare species protection projects are planned by Los Amigos in San Antonio Creek, Valles Santa Rosa, Jaramillo Creek, Valle Toledo and the Alamo Bog areas of the Valles Caldera.
“The goal of the Restoring San Antonio Creek RERI project is to restore riparian habitat and function along 10 miles of the creek, and increase wetland acreage by at least 35 acres, through the use of innovative geomorphic stream restoration techniques. Water quality goals include the reduction of stream temperatures and turbidity,” said Karen Menetrey of the New Mexico Environmental Division, who participated in an overnight volunteer Los Amigos work party last May.
Beginning later this spring, volunteers and more funding will be needed to continue watershed restoration progress. Volunteers have the opportunity to experience remote, rarely visited areas of the Preserve. Many of the projects involve the unique and unforgettable experience of overnight camping at the Preserve. Hard physical labor is involved in many of these projects, such as moving sod clumps and rocks about in order to improve water retention and optimal water flow. It’s physical demanding, but rewarding work.
“You fall fast asleep, completely exhausted at the end of the day,” a volunteer said.
The Amigos have partnered with the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation on several projects. The AWF has supplied enthusiastic and talented volunteers to the Preserve.
Last summer’s Las Conchas Fire has impacted the progress of environmental restoration as unanticipated problems have arisen that need immediate attention. Project plans will be changed to take into account severe new runoff erosion issues that have cropped up. Thirty percent of the land area of the Preserve was burned in last summer’s fire. Project plans must be modified in order to tackle new situations occurring along the slopes, streams and creeks below the burnt out areas.
The Trust and Los Amigos have worked together to develop a potential list of future projects. Upcoming for the Amigos is a collaborative forest restoration program proposal with the Forest Service and the Jemez Pueblo, designed to address forest restoration needs in the watershed above the Historic District. This project will help protect both the watershed and the historic buildings from future catastrophic ﬁres.
The project is not yet funded, but hopes are running high that funding sources will be secured, especially in light of the Las Conchas Fire.
“The fire was devastating. It burned 30,000 acres in the Preserve,” Johnson said. “That’s a third of the preserves land area and it was frightening. We would like to see how we can help do other things like protect the historic district and make things better so we don’t end up having something that catastrophic. Everyone who gets involved with the Preserve wants to keep it as perfect as they can and that’s what Los Amigos would like to do. We’re happy to cooperate with anybody in order to make that happen.”
The Amigos plan to provide a four-wheel drive geologic tour of the Northwestern portion of the Preserve. Hosted by noted New Mexico Geologist Kirt Kempter, this extremely popular tour allows participants to drive their own vehicle, in convoy fashion, on normally closed roads of the Caldera. The drive includes a thrilling drop down the Northern edge of the Caldera rim. Other activities of the Amigos include an “Old Timer’s” barbeque, hikes and wildlife tours, trail maintenance as well as several work days and weekend camping work projects.
See the Los Alamos website for more information on becoming a member, volunteering, tours, grants, and fundraising: http://losamigosdevallescaldera.org. For more detailed information, call Los Amigos de Valles Caldera at 505-474-6689.
Los Amigos Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Los-Amigos-de-Valles-Caldera/183309281755127?sk=wall
Albuquerque Wildlife Federation: http://abq.nmwildlife.org/
Think Like A Creek, by Courtney White for Headwaters News, Feb. 15, 2006: http://quiviracoalition.org/images/pdfs/24-Bill_Zeedyk_-_2-15-06.pdf
Editor’s Note: Greg Kendall is a founding board member and former vice chair of Los Amigos.