Though Global ReLeaf is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, there is another milestone that is certainly worth acknowledging — and it is assuredly a “wild” one! In 2015, American Forests is celebrating its fifth year of partnership with WildEarth Guardians in the “Land of Enchantment” (formally known as New Mexico). Where have we gone in five years, you ask?
Our partnership first began in 2010 — as you may have guessed, if you’re keeping track of our anniversary series! In that year, we began our first venture into stabilizing and reforesting several watersheds throughout New Mexico that were listed in critical condition. As water quantity and quality is always a concern of utmost importance — particularly in the American West, where droughts are not uncommon — American Forests targeted this project and partner for the incredible benefits that they could provide.
By reforesting areas around four major waterways — the Santa Fe River, Bluewater Creek, La Jencia Creek, and the Rio Puerco — we embarked on the first leg of a five-year journey of restoring various ecosystems that had been damaged by overgrazing, invasive plant establishment, and off-road vehicles. American Forests and WildEarth Guardians have also conjunctively addressed watershed needs in our subsequent years of partnership, including 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Of course, nature is an ever-changing force, and American Forests and WildEarth Guardians have already risen to address new challenges that have emerged since our initial partnership in 2010. In 2011, the Los Conchas Fire, initially sparked by a power line, burned more than 150,000 acres, including 30,000 within the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The wildfire had been the largest in the state’s history, and threatened the native habitat of elk, golden eagles, coyotes, black bears, bobcats and more. In addition, the Rio de las Vacas — one of streams that we have subsequently targeted for riparian restoration — is home to one of the remaining 13 core populations of Rio Grande cutthroat trout, New Mexico’s state fish.
Indeed, our partnership with WildEarth Guardians has been a true testament to the astounding amount of impact and work that can be accomplished in five short years. In that time, we have planted 336,000 trees and shrubs and engaged hundreds of local volunteers. Of course, there’s still more to come — we’re planting an additional 50,000 trees this year. What do you think the next five years could bring to the watersheds of New Mexico?