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A tour down the Las Huertas Watershed

---Lynn Montgomery, Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District,

Last month we explored how our watersheds work. Now let’s take a look at the Las Huertas Watershed, find what’s there, and what we can do for it, from the top down.

Upper watershed:

This is what is usually regarded as a watershed—the high-elevation forested part, which mostly consists of National Forest Lands. Much of this is wilderness that abuts private property in Placitas. The condition of this part is frightening. Forest Service (FS) officials say “when,” rather than “if” there will be a catastrophic fire as the density of fuels is way above comfort level. Such a fire would burn very hot, causing a situation where the inevitable floods would seriously impair our water resource for decades. There are good efforts afoot to treat the areas that are on the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant, but there is much more to do to lower the threat to our community. Coronado is looking at treating the wilderness, which would entail hand thinning and removal of fuel, as the use of power tools is prohibited in wilderness. This would be a huge challenge, but Coronado will become a cooperating agency with the FS soon and has joined a Rio Grande watershed cooperative effort that will potentially be able to treat millions of acres of forest. By being in the loop we might have some success.

Ojo de la Casa:

Ojo de la Casa is the area down from the FS line to Tecolote Rd, otherwise known as Gringo Gulch. Las Huertas Community Ditch is one of the three Placitas Historic Acequias and runs along Las Huertas Creek in this area. Salt cedar and Russian olive have choked the riparian area and need to be removed insofar as possible. Residents have done some of this work on their own. Coronado discourages using herbicides or other chemicals on our lands, so this is challenging, as we are confined to mechanical removal. There are erosion problems in the uplands. Coronado needs to do more evaluation there.

San José:

The ruins of San José de las Huertas, which was a village of 293 souls in 1807, are centrally located on this stretch of the Creek. It runs from Tecolote to the eastern boundary of the Placitas Open Space. Acequia la Rosa de Castilla is across the Creek from San José and is still run by descendants of the Village’s original settlers. Earth scientist and conservationist Reid Bandeen has told us that muddy water running off this area, especially from Cuchilla de Escala or Ideal Acres, is why the NM Environment Dept. has found the Creek water to be impaired. This is due to ill-designed roads in the hills, severe overgrazing, and other factors. Fixing this is going to be a major, expensive project. Reid has done an excellent job in creek restoration and stabilization, which helps downstream, but doesn’t address all that muddy water. The area’s vegetation needs to be restored after many years of overgrazing.

Placitas Open Space:

This former BLM land provides much joy as a public recreational area. Lately, it has been the focus of conflict concerning feral horses and the damage done by them. The horses have been removed and the land has had some months to begin repairing itself. There hasn’t been much precipitation lately and the process is slow, but heartening. Coronado hopes to revive restoration and maintenance plans and projects and hopes all concerned residents and organizations will help out. We plan to do some modest seed and seedling planting and small-scale rill and arroyo stabilization. If successful, we can get into the Creek itself and patch up previous restoration efforts. For more information on this, go to: LasHuertasWRAS.pdf.

Arroyo del Oso-Orno:

These arroyos come together and then flow into Las Huertas Creek at Cedar Creek Subdivision. Arroyo del Oso flows from the Village of Placitas and del Orno from Tunnel Springs. Most of you have noticed the deep, wide cuts of these arroyos. There is much erosion generally, culminating in these awesome gaps in the landscape. Local residents are beginning the daunting task of stabilizing these. Coronado can obtain grants and bring in experts to design remedies and keep us from making costly errors. A drainage plan would be very useful. Las Acequias de Placitas, which includes the domestic water system of the village of Placitas, is a model for others. It uses spring water and operates in a simple but effective way.

Lower Las Huertas:

This is BLM land on the north and also some residential areas on the south. The land is overgrazed and flooding has resulted. At the bottom where the Creek flows into the Rio Grande at Algodones, Coronado has applied for a grant to do exotic tree control along the Rio and the Bosque.

All of this needs the efforts of the community. There’s plenty to do, along with fire control, flood control, and assisting wildlife and its corridors.

BLM Albuquerque District seeks Advisory Council nominations

—Martín Visarraga

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Albuquerque District is seeking public nominations for three positions on its Resource Advisory Council (RAC), which advises the BLM on public land issues within the Albuquerque District. As advertised in the Federal Register, the BLM will consider nominations until March 20, 2015.

Individuals may nominate themselves or others to serve on an advisory council. Nominees must be residents of the state or states where the RAC has jurisdiction. They will be judged on the basis of their training, education, and knowledge of the council’s geographical area. Nominees should also demonstrate a commitment to consensus building and collaborative decision-making. All nominations must be accompanied by letters of reference from any represented interests or organizations, a completed RAC application, and any other information that speaks to the nominee’s qualifications.

To receive an application, contact Albuquerque District RAC Coordinator Martín Visarraga at 505-761-8902 or by email at You can also download the application at: Individuals may submit their signed applications by either email or to the Bureau of Land Management, Albuquerque District Office, Attention: RAC Coordinator Martín Visarraga, 435 Montaño Road, NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107.

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