Mayor Javier Gonzales’s last award ceremony took place on November 9th at La Fonda, where he gave out his Sustainability Awards.  The Santa Fe Conservation Trust won first place in the Environmental Resilience category.  With more than 36,000 acres under protection in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and San Miguel Counties, the environmental benefits of our work are worth mentioning. Preserved open space improves air quality because trees and plants give us oxygen to breathe and they also clean the air of harmful pollutants. The forests and grasslands of natural lands can also have a positive impact on climate change.  The vegetation serves as a “carbon sink,” pulling CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.  Ground cover and shade also reduce temperatures to keep us cooler.

Conserved lands also help improve our water quality because the vegetation slows runoff and reduces erosion so that our precious rain can sink into the ground and replenish our aquifers.  By slowing runoff, streams and stream beds are protected, and the amount of pollutants entering receiving waters is reduced. Open lands improve and protect biodiversity and wildlife habitat.  Wildlife and plants depend on undisturbed land for their food, shelter and reproduction.  In return, they protect us from invasive species and unchecked species taking over.  A diverse biology of plants and animals feeds us, helps pollinate our crops, and improves our enjoyment of nature when we hike, camp, fish, bird watch or photograph in our area.

Preserved lands also help people act and think greener.  The more people hike or bike our trails, for example, the more likely they are to use the trails as transportation routes for commuting or shopping. On behalf of all of us at the Trust, thank you Mayor Javier Gonzales and the members of the Mayor’s Sustainability Commission for recognizing the environmental benefits of our work!