Watershed History

Old black and white photo of upper watershed

Prior to and throughout the 1800’s, heavy livestock grazing, homesteading, and logging occurred in the Upper Santa Fe River Watershed also known as the Municipal Watershed. This canyon was Santa Fe’s playground for swimming, fishing, and camping. By the 1920’s, the lower slopes were depleted of trees and ground vegetation which led to severe soil erosion that polluted the water. In 1932, the Municipal Watershed was closed to public access as a means of protecting the water supply for the City of Santa Fe.

Throughout the 1900’s, the U.S. Forest Service had a policy of aggressively suppressing all wildfires on National Forest lands. Intensive historic land uses on the Municipal Watershed followed by fire suppression resulted in eliminating the beneficial role of low-intensity surface fires in the ponderosa pine and mixed conifer ecosystem that dominates the area. This led to a forest that was highly susceptible to a potential wildfire.

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