Copyright Â© 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA ANA PUEBLO – Once absent from the pueblo lands just north of Bernalillo, wild turkeys and American antelope now roam alongside elk, deer and pumas.
Glenn Harper, head of the range and wildlife division at Santa Ana Pueblo, said his team’s work over the past two decades shows that it is possible to reintroduce species important to the tribe.
âOver time, the landscape has changed, and who manages that landscape has changed,â Harper said. “But everyone needs wildlife to keep their traditions alive.”
The reintroduction involved capturing animals from other parts of New Mexico and planting additional fodder.
The pueblo natural resources department draws money from the tribal budget and federal grants.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, sponsored by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, DN.M., would pay tribes like Santa Ana Pueblo an estimated $ 97.5 million a year and $ 1.3 billion to states for conservation of the wildlife.
Heinrich said about $ 28 million would go to New Mexico projects each year.
“We can continue to try to manage (a species) once it is an emergency, once something is listed as threatened or endangered,” he said. “Or we can make a sustainable upfront investment and prevent these species from going into a crisis in the first place.”
State wildlife agencies such as New Mexico Game and Fish would administer the funds to deal with “species in greatest need of conservation.”
The action plan for game and fish fauna lists more than 200 species in this category, as well as ideal areas for projects that could protect them.
Some of the animals are unique to New Mexico. Others play a crucial role in their ecosystems or have lost their habitat due to forest fires or water scarcity.
Existing laws have traditionally directed taxes on fishing and hunting equipment towards recreational fishing and big game catering.
âBut there has never been dedicated funding for all other wildlife,â said Heinrich. âIt really opens up the possibility of managing everything from bumblebees to bison. “
Monitoring wildlife populations is a top priority in Santa Ana.
The pueblo livestock and wildlife codes, adopted in the early 2000s, help protect herds and habitat by setting grazing and hunting limits.
But nearby, Interstate 25 and Highway 550 are big obstacles for wildlife, with vehicles killing hundreds of animals each year.
Harper said migration corridor projects could benefit from additional federal funds.
âThe closer we get to urban development, the more we narrow that corridor down, and we end up with a very small chunk that these animals can walk through,â Harper said.
The pueblo bosque can be an ideal habit for endangered birds like the southwestern willow flycatcher when the Rio Grande sinks high.
Additional funds could help tribes adapt to a fluctuating river in the face of mega-drought and climate change, said Nathan Schroeder, director of the Santa Ana catering division.
âEven the trees that have their roots in the river die,â said Schroeder. âIt changes what we decide to plant.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was introduced in the Senate in mid-July and was referred to an environment committee.
Theresa Davis is a member of the Report for America body covering Water and the Environment for the Albuquerque Journal.