Pueblo of Santa Ana: a neighbor committed to wildlife and partnerships

We sometimes get pretty depressed about the seriously trashed state of the lands in Placitas and surrounding areas, thanks to several years of feral horse incursions and a multi-year drought.

But last week was a real bright spot. We learned about the Pueblo of Santa Ana’s achievements in wildlife conservation and land restoration. We met with pueblo staff and also attended a group presentation by the pueblo (more about that in a future post).

Southwestern willow flycatcher

Photo credit: Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA

Maybe we don’t get out enough, but until now, we had known very little about Santa Ana’s programs and successes in these areas. Here’s a brief overview.

The Santa Ana Department of Natural Resources has a staff of 30, many with a background in wildlife science, forestry or environmental science. The department’s main areas of focus are:

  • Bosque restoration
  • Rangeland and wildlife management
  • Water resource management
  • Environmental education
  • Geographic information systems and other data tools

The pueblo has spent nearly two decades restoring the grasslands, rivers and riparian areas within its boundaries. The photos staff showed us of restored bosque areas, riverbanks teeming with vegetation, and healthy grasslands were a real sight for sore eyes. You can read an article about their river restoration and endangered species work here.

In the last decade, Santa Ana has reintroduced both wild turkeys and pronghorn antelope onto pueblo lands. Wildlife staff are currently working to monitor and conserve endangered or threatened species, including the southwestern willow flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo, and Rio Grande silvery minnow. They’ve documented 77 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians on pueblo lands and regularly see elk and mountain lions.

Pronghorn antelope

Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

The pueblo makes good use of technology. A network of solar-powered wells and drinkers for wildlife and grazing animals has been installed throughout the pueblo’s 79,000 acres. Along with on-the-ground legwork and annual fly-overs, the natural resources staff use satellite and other imagery to map and monitor the land and vegetation. To better understand wildlife ranges, they track the wanderings of elk, antelope and wild turkeys — both on and off pueblo lands — using radio collars.

The pueblo doesn’t attempt to go it alone. It has a track record of partnering with many agencies and organizations to leverage resources, including:

  • US Environmental Protection Agency
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • US Forest Service
  • NM Department of Game and Fish
  • University of New Mexico Museum of Southwestern Biology
  • National Wild Turkey Federation
  • Ducks Unlimited

The Pueblo of Santa Ana has received a number of significant grants to fund conservation and restoration projects (too many to mention here) and has been recognized nationally and internationally for its achievements. We’re pleased as punch to know there’s such a committed team of experienced professionals—working to preserve lands and wildlife—just down the road.