Images of Galisteo Basin Preserve near Santa Fe, New Mexico, May 2005. All images ©2005 Esha Chiocchio,

Article by Melissa Houser, SFCT Land Program Manager

While the Commonweal Conservancy works to resolve its financial challenges at the Galisteo Basin Preserve, we wanted you to know about our partnership with them.  Commonweal has donated 18 conservation easements to SFCT to protect this rich landscape. Here is why we believe their continued success is so important to all of us.

The Galisteo Basin is a critical wildlife corridor between the Sandia & Manzano mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a critical piece of the Spine of the Continent Wildway, which runs north to south from Alaska to Mexico’s Sierra Madres. The Galisteo Basin Preserve is home to a rich variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Reptiles include salamanders, lizards, frogs, and snakes. Mammals such as jackrabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, prairie dogs, coyote, foxes, deer, White-throated woodrat, Pronghorn antelope, cougar, and bear utilize the property for forage or traversing its arroyos. The Galisteo Basin Preserve is also critical habitat for a large variety of birds that may include the snowy egret, green-winged teal, osprey, bald eagle, golden eagle, northern harrier, sharp shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, Merlin, peregrine falcon, blue grouse, great horned owl, nighthawks, swifts, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and a large variety of songbirds.

Revered by archaeologists and historians as a landscape where people have lived for more than 7,000 years, the Galisteo Basin’s mesa tops are etched with the cultural symbols of Tewa Indians and Spanish missionaries.  Congress recognized the cultural importance of the area when it passed the Galisteo Basin Archaeological Sites Protection Act in 2004. The Rio Grande Foundation has conducted a number of archaeological surveys in the Galisteo Basin Preserve. Many sites were found to be “contributing” and “significant,” thus the protection of these sites contributes to the larger efforts to preserve those throughout the Basin.

The Galisteo Basin Preserve currently offers 28 miles of publicly-accessible trails, which is the largest publicly-accessible network of trails on private land in the southwestern United States. 12,000 hikers, mountain-bikers and equestrians explore the Galisteo Basin Preserve trails each year. Santa Fe County’s larger open space trail system with links to the Preserve’s trails offers unsurpassed recreational opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, trail running, wildlife viewing and horseback riding in the Galisteo Basin.

SFCT’s partnership with the Commonweal Conservancy has resulted in the protection of 4,634 acres of wildlife habitat, cultural resources and amazing recreational opportunities covering 18 properties within the Galisteo Basin Preserve.  But there is much left to be protected, and the trails need to be secured.  Let’s all commit to helping Commonweal come up with a solution to continue their wonderful contributions to this area.