Herbicide Applications Proposed on Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Wildland fire, prescribed burns, thinning, and herbicide applications are four main treatment options proposed by the Bureau of Land Management Taos Field Office on 106,634 acres of Río Grande del Norte National Monument.

The Cones Fire Project spans an east-west belt of volcanic cones from the Guadalupe Mountains in the east to San Antonio Mountain in the west.

It encompasses the proposed Cerro de la Olla Wilderness Area, which was introduced as legislation last January by New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall.

Taos BLM manages the monument and proposed wilderness area under a general 2012 Regional Management Plan because the official monument plan was never completed.

Taos News, September 2020, more

from Protecting Wildlife Migration, August 2019

Powered paraglider Colin Hubbard snapped these views of the Rio Grande in Colorado. He’s part of a group of paramotorists following the river from its source to the Gulf of Mexico.

Smiling broadly and gesturing overhead, Assistant U.S. House Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) told the audience about the flight he’d taken over the Río Grande del Norte National Monument: “I got a bird’s eye view from above and could easily see how all the communities are connected. We’re family.”

It turned out that his opening remarks would set the theme for the third annual Upper Río Grande Wildlife Corridors Summit, which took place Tuesday (Aug. 20), at Sagebrush Inn and Suites in Taos.

Luján also expressed concerns about the present administration in Washington, especially its latest effort to undermine the Endangered Species Act. That act was passed in 1973 to provide a framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species.

“We can come together,” he said. “We can reverse this.”

Organized by the National Wildlife Federation on behalf of the Upper Río Grande Wildlife Initiative, the all-day conference was a mosaic of traditional peoples and cultures from New Mexico and southern Colorado together with a broad spectrum of representatives from federal and state agencies, tribal entities, private landowners and conservation groups.

Upward of 200 people attended. And when Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) was introduced as a 35th-generation New Mexican, there was a noticeable gasp from the whole room that seemed to say: “Wow. Thirty-five generations.” more


from National Forest Unveils Draft Land Management Plan, The Taos News, July 2019

George Dreher’s property borders Carson National Forest. He’s got timber and meadows. On July 17, he may have preferred being up on his land but chose instead to spend two hours at a scheduled open house in the Carson National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Taos.

“I wanted to know how they were coming up with their proposals,” he said later by phone.

Peter Rich and Alyssa Radcliff, principal planners of the Carson’s latest Draft Land Management Plan, were on hand to help answer his questions. Rich explained how the Carson would be managed for “desired conditions,” a key planning concept that directs the management of the land and resources. Sometimes the desired condition harks back to a time before fires were routinely suppressed, when a more natural forest prevailed, one where periodic blazes kept trees and brush thinned out.

The management plan will guide Carson National Forest staff in how to handle timber, roads, wildlife, grazing and recreation on 1.5 million acres of land in four counties.

Dreher leaned into the table and in a soft-spoken but direct manner asked: “How do you know what the forest looked like in the 1800s?”

Rich and Radcliff had a ready answer to that, too.

Dreher, who first lived in Llano in the ’70s, moved away to make a living and then returned and bought land in 2013. He was concerned about the potential for “unintended consequences” that could result from the new forest plan, but after talking with planners said, “I would manage my timber the same way.”

The open house format is designed to help citizens learn about forest planning in a casual, comfortable setting. The next open house is scheduled Aug. 21, from noon to 2 p.m., at the Carson Supervisor’s Office.

“It’s been educational,” said Dreher about his experience. “While I was there, somebody from Senator Udall’s office showed up.”

About the forest staff, he added: “They’ve been very attentive. Very responsive.”

Plenty of public opportunity

The draft plan has been five years in the making so far, though the final plan may be two years out. More than 60 public meetings in 26 local communities across the forest planning area have taken place. more

from Wheeler Peak Wilderness Yields Exciting Discovery, The Taos News, July 2018

C. Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
Photo courtesy Raymond VanBuskirk

In the rocky crags above Williams Lake, three intrepid birder-scientists confirmed the presence of a bird species not observed breeding in New Mexico for nearly 30 years.

Luke George, Jill Wussow, and Raymond VanBuskirk hiked into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, camped overnight near the lake, then spent five grueling hours the next day inspecting the bowls and talus slopes of New Mexico’s highest peaks. On June 13, VanBuskirk dispatched this report to eBird (an international database of bird sightings administered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), and the news telegraphed around the state:

“We found ourselves above 12,000 feet in some of the highest reaches of the greater Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area. It was here, amongst unstable scree, alpine snowfields, and inaccessible crags, that we found a pair of brown-capped rosy-finches carrying nest material to a crevice high on a 90-degree cliff face.”

What may be most important here is that the finches carried nest material, so we leap to what is possible: the promise of hatchlings and the reclamation of this iconic landscape for at least one species. Spied from afar, the birds were mere specks upon a snowfield where they foraged for seeds and insects frozen on the surface.

“It’s like they’re walking along a dinner plate and just picking things off,” mused George, science director at Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. more


Photo by John Lay

from Enchanting Burrowing Owls, The Taos News June 2017

Mr. J., a rancher who prefers not to be identified, said that when you stand on a tractor or a combine for eight hours a day, you see a lot of stuff, contradicting notions that numbers of burrowing owls are declining.

“Burrowing owls are all over Taos County,” he said. A no-nonsense kind of person, Mr. J. explained how he’s worked pastures up and down the county. On this particular pasture, he runs cattle in the winter and dryland farms in the summer.

But how can a farmer disc the land, blade over prairie dog burrows and not hurt owls? Mr. J. has an answer. But first, you need to know that folks have strong opinions about prairie dogs. more

rufous 7 (2)
Photo by John Lay


from Trials and Tribulations of Rufous Hummingbird, The Taos News August 2015

Director of Klamath Bird Observatory and conservation biologist at Tuscon’s Desert Museum weigh-in on the conservation status of the Rufous Hummingbird. more







Photo by Cole Wolf/Courtesy Kristine Johnson A Pinyon Jay Ready for Release
Photo by Cole Wolf/Courtesy Kristine Johnson
A Pinyon Jay Ready for Release

from Los Pinonjeros: Our Forest Planting Vecinos, The Taos News, January 2015

I opened the turquoise painted door of the Territorial-style building (home to Natural Heritage New Mexico on UNM’s Albuquerque campus), walked along slightly tilting floors, climbed a narrow staircase, and knocked at the office of UNM research biologist, Dr. Kristine Johnson. I’d come to learn about the Pinyon Jay, specifically what can us plain folk do to help stop its precipitous decline. more




Meg releases a Cooper’s Hawk


from Birdwatching Magazine, March 2013


Eye to eye with a hawk is a singular moment. I settle into a gentle, firm hold. The feathers are surprisingly soft, the weight slight, the heartbeat a tender, rapid pulse against my thumb. An unblinking yellow-orange iris lasers me with a wild stare. I step closer to the canyon’s edge, lift my arms, and the young hawk is aloft. more






from “Boundaries,” Drinking From the Stream, Nighthawk Press, 2013

To stand at the source of the Rio Grande is a simple enough conceit, neither too long a journey nor too costly. Molly and I plan to drive along the river as far as we can, then walk. The drive never gives way to wildness. From Del Norte to Creede, the “Silver Thread Scenic Byway” is well traveled, pulsing with Broncos and Land Rovers and the hum of RVs. more

from A Springtime Miracle: Songbird Migration, The Taos News, April 2015

TN Tanager_0179 (2)

Surely, one of the most striking birds in the Americas is the Western Tanager. La Tangara capucha roja arrives in Northern New Mexico in large numbers by mid-May….How it makes such a long journey has been the subject of much debate and research. more


from Birding the (Fairly) Wild, The Taos News, 2014 

Birding has a lot in common with (ahem) fantasy football. There can be teams. Big days. Drama. Apps for smart phones. Winner and losers. Or… birding has nothing in common with fantasy football. Instead, there is companionship and solitude. List-making in small memo books. Brief, memorable sightings. more

2 thoughts on “Wildlife/Environment

  1. Willis Blackmore

    Hi, Meg! I am wondering if you or someone you might know could help me identify particular birds that are hanging around our house in small flocks. They cruise in, hang out on the Russian olive, fence, roof, looking for seeds, I think, mostly. Some of them have beautiful blue backs and whitish fronts, others are more drab, either brownish or grayish. They have shortish sharp beaks, slightly curved, and shortish tails. They flock together, so I figure they’re probably the same species. I also saw a bird with similar color on its back the other day, but it had a long tail, like a magpie, and longer beak. Almost like a small jay. Possibly I could send you some pictures. Elsewhere, I have seen what I swear are robins. They have that distinctive orange-red breast. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thank you! I’m glad there is someone to ask! –Bill Blackmore (north of El Prado, in the sage brush)


    1. Meg Post author

      Hi, Bill. Thanks for the note. Sounds as though you have some interesting birds there in El Prado. I can’t make a positive ID, though, from the descriptions, so if you have some photos, that would be great. I can give it a try, at any rate. My email address is: mpriogrande@gmail.com




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