It is an anniversary of sorts. Two years ago today, the perimeter fence around the 560-acre Placitas Open Space was completed in order to prevent further environmental degradation to this area, which had been overrun by free-roaming horses. Today, the POS is slowly recovering from the severe overgrazing and soil damage of those years.
I remember taking an out-of-town friend to the POS during the height of the horse incursion in 2012. The loss of vegetation, trampled creek banks, swaths of compacted dirt and sheet erosion, and massive piles of horse manure in Coyote Canyon and elsewhere were truly depressing. The once knee-high grasses along Las Huertas Creek were gone. It felt like we were walking in a feedlot.
In what turned out to be quite a battle, the efforts of a small group of local residents (the Let Our Land Rest group) to protect the POS eventually bore fruit and, with the help of the City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Division, the fencing was completed.
Two years later, it’s peaceful along the trails, with springtime flocks of Western bluebirds flitting among the junipers. Here and there, clumps of native grasses are tall enough to waft in the breeze. Mule deer tracks seen in Coyote Canyon last fall and mountain lion tracks spied in the Las Huertas Creek drainage three weeks ago tell us that large animals are moving quietly in the night through canyons and arroyos. Although recovery will take years, this beleaguered island of habitat that lies between roads, pipelines, gravel mines, and residential subdivisions is breathing again.
It’s good to take a moment to celebrate.