By Scott Manning
The Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission and Sandia Pueblo are in talks to collaborate on bosque maintenance efforts.
According to Fire Chief Anthony Martinez, collaboration between the Village of Corrales and Sandia Pueblo would consist of dialogue between the two parties to coordinate bosque maintenance and to secure more funding.
Martinez has plans for several bosque maintenance projects this year. First, he intends to complete maintenance work on pre-existing fuel breaks in the preserve. This entails removing new plant growth to preserve the integrity of the fuel breaks.
Second, dead trees and vegetation must be removed from the bosque to reduce fire danger and to improve recreation on the hiking trails. This cleared wood is in turn sold to local Pueblos in need. Third, to improve the health of the ecosystem, workers must remove invasive Ravenna grass.
Sandia Pueblo has many of the same concerns to address on the east of the river. Firefighting efforts during a fire can involve both the Corrales and Sandia Pueblo because a fire on one side of the river could jump the river and spread to the other riverbank. Given these shared interests, Martinez suggests that collaboration with Sandia Pueblo provides a new opportunity for coordinated bosque maintenance efforts.
Collaboration would mainly consist of regular dialogue between the Village of Corrales and Pueblo officials. By improving communication, the parties would be able to coordinate management plans and resources and discuss the effectiveness of bosque maintenance efforts. This kind of coordination would allow all parties involved to maximize their limited resources and limited personnel.
Martinez said that under a collaborative plan Sandia Pueblo and the Village of Corrales would still be responsible for maintenance in their respective regions of the bosque; proponents of the plan only intend to organize efforts, not shift maintenance responsibilities.
A collaborative management plan would also make the parties more competitive for state and federal grants to fund operations. Martinez explained that grants often reward maintenance projects that serve larger regions. By working together, the parties working on bosque maintenance will be eligible for a greater array of federal funding opportunities.
Martinez says that these avenues of funding are critical for bosque maintenance efforts. For the past few years, the village of Corrales has been fortunate to receive yearly funding from New Mexico State Department of Forestry. Some of this funding is allocated to help the Corrales Fire Department perform maintenance and fire prevention in the bosque. For example, this past year workers used funding to test out a tractor to remove Ravenna grass in place of traditional shovel work.
For the collaboration to come to fruition, other groups must be involved in the decision-making process. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District regulates much of the bosque, and any collaborative plan would involve the district. In early 2020 the two parties began initial communication, and Martinez is confident that the village of Corrales will continue to collaborate with Sandia Pueblo. But since March the COVID-19 crisis has stalled collaboration efforts, and the parties will need to reconnect.
Martinez plans to re-connect with Sandia Pueblo over the summer so that the parties can prepare for grant proposals in the fall. No maintenance work can be done during the summer months when birds are nesting, meaning that the fall is also a promising time to begin coordinating maintenance efforts.
Martinez says that the Village has a responsibility to make the preserve safe for Corrales residents and safe for local wildlife in the ecosystem.