Join us in the important work of protecting and supporting our natural world. Explore below to learn how you can help and take action in Santa Fe County. Everyone can take part!
Why care about nature and land?
From the soil beneath our feet and the air we breathe, to the buzz of bees and the rush of mountains streams, land and nature are imperative to our survival and well-being.
Drought, heavy monsoons, and extreme heat and cold characterize the climate of the arid Southwest. The very same soils that endure these extremes provide us with an abundance of food and natural resources each year when given the opportunity to do so. We depend on the health of the land for our own health and resiliency. You can make a difference, no matter how big or small, in caring for the land we call home.
Explore nature & land in Santa Fe County
There are many ways to explore nature in Santa Fe County—even in your own backyard. Santa Fe County manages several open spaces and parks through the Open Space, Trails and Parks Program. Take a look at the interactive trail map—you might discover a new trail in your own neighborhood.
Here are our favorite activities to explore nature in the neighborhood or backyard:
- Get to know the birds of your neighborhood with eBird– You can keep track of what you find using their handy bird checklist for Santa Fe County.
- Learn about biodiversity with iNaturalist– Find a cool bug or plant? Snap a photo and upload it to iNaturalist. An expert will help you identify the species, and you’ll also be contributing to science.
- Organize a Bioblitz– Try to identify as many species as possible with your friends and family by organizing a Bioblitz. You can contribute to science by sharing your findings with iNaturalist.
Before hitting the trail, please explore responsibly. Be sure to follow trail etiquette, and don’t forget—pack it in, pack it out! Even items that seem harmless, like banana peels, can take more than a year to decompose in our high desert landscape. Check out this infographic to learn about the decomposition rates of other types of waste that are commonly found along trails, like plastic bags, dog poop, aluminum cans, and plastic water bottles.
Caring for plants & wildlife
Not everyone has a garden, but we can all play a role in caring for the plants and trees of Santa Fe County. Trees clean the air, cool the land, clean our drinking water, reduce stress, and they can even save money by conserving energy and increasing property values. Here are our favorite links to learn more about trees and native plants:
- Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Facts– Learn about the many benefits of trees.
- Arbor Day Foundation’s National Tree Benefit Calculator– Find out how much money one tree planted in the right place can save you.
- Santa Fe Master Gardeners Native Plant Guide– List of plants native to New Mexico that do well in the Santa Fe area.
- New Mexico Healthy Soil Program– State initiative that teaches healthy soil building techniques as an important tool in increasing water and nutrient retention, as well as carbon sequestration.
- New Mexico State Forestry Division– New Mexico has several programs to support conservation efforts, including the Conservation Seedlings Program and Rare Plant Conservation Program.
It’s especially important to plant trees and plants that are appropriate for our high desert climate, such as what biologists call “native plants”. Native plants are plants that evolved in our landscape. They are well-adapted to our climate, require less water and maintenance, and provide natural habitats to local wildlife. You can also plant a pollinator-friendly garden, which will attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. If you grow food, this will give the added bonus of boosting the productivity of your crops. If you don’t have a garden, there are many community initiatives you can join.
In the community
- Participate in an Earth Day event - Each spring, Santa Fe County hosts Earth Day events to plant native and pollinator-friendly trees, shrubs, and wildflowers in community areas across the County. Visit the story map of Earth Day 2021 to learn more!
- Join one of Santa Fe’s many community gardens – Are you a member of a community garden outside of the City of Santa Fe? Let us know so we can compile a comprehensive list for Santa Fe County.
- Trust for Public Lands’ Urban Heat Island Severity Map– See where planting trees in your community can have the biggest impact by reducing urban heat islands in Santa Fe County.
- NM Acequia Association– Join the network of stewards who service New Mexico’s acequias. The NM Acequia Association offers free online workshops about acequia techniques, policy, and culture. Sign up for their newsletter or follow their Facebook page to stay up-to-date with upcoming events and educational programs. Everyone can be involved! Membership is encouraged but not required.
- Santa Fe Watershed Association– Be a steward of the Santa Fe River watershed! Participate in the annual summer cleanup of the Santa Fe River & arroyos, join the Adopt-the-River or Adopt-an-Arroyo program, or sign up for a guided hike of the upper watershed, which is normally closed to the public.
Ideas for your garden or home
- The Complete How-To-Guide to Xeriscaping in New Mexico– Learn how to create smart, water-efficient (and beautiful!) landscapes and choose plants that are appropriate for our arid landscape. Read tips on planting, soil preparation, mulching, drip irrigation and more.
- Audubon’s Plant for Birds– Learn how to design and create a bird-friendly native plant garden. Enter your zip code into Audubon’s Native Plant Database to see a list of native plants in Santa Fe County and the birds they attract.
- Set up a backyard composting system– Don’t have a garden? You can still compost at home! Spread the nutrient-rich soil you create under your favorite neighborhood trees. If you decide to set up an indoor composting system, let us know how it goes! If you don’t want to compost indoors, several farmers in your community may accept your food scraps free of charge. Check with your local farmer’s market.
- Stormwater management and rainwater harvesting– Techniques for harvesting rainwater and waterwise irrigation.
- Create pollinator habitats– Ideas on how to attract bees and other pollinators to your yard or neighborhood.
- Build a DIY bird house– Create wildlife habitats in your neighborhood.