TALKING CIRCLE OVERVIEW.. to expand and continue our understanding
The group discussed many examples for native species that serve keystone functions in the Sky Island region, as well as changes in ecological web relationships and the reintroduction of once-extirpated wildlife in some regions. Reflecting on Sky Islands as biogeographically significant features within larger arid life zones, such as desert or steppe lands, we discussed increasing levels of concern for: the decline of prairie dogs, conversion of steppe/prairie/desert native plant communities, effects to a host of small mammals that support raptors and predatory wildlife, missing or declining populations of native ungulates and carnivores, as well as the displacement of local knowledge connected to these areas.
- Is everything, globally, at risk of immediate extirpation irrespective of and/or exacerbated by land use changes?
- Do we understand resilience and continuation for ecological cohorts as embracing necessity for our mutual sustenance?
January 26, 2016 TALKING CIRCLE NOTES:
With a focus on "connectivity" and biodiversity across regional and local landscapes, our second 2016 Talking Circle touched upon some of the many concerns over habitat fragmentation, migratory species, displaced ecological webs, and changing predator/prey dynamics, as well as integrated land use changes and larger scale climate shifts. Touchstones to larger discussions were acknowledged as the group decided to focus their attention on connectivity concerns within the Upper Rio Grande and two tributaries, the Rio Hondo and the Rio Costilla. Participants described several recent restoration projects that emphasize improving habitat connectivity along watershed features.
The Upper Rio Grande has been designated an "Important Bird Area" by the National Audubon Society due to the number of migratory species that rely on its habitat, as well as having the nation's first Wild and Scenic River designation. The 2006 Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Act and the newly designated National Monument also embrace this unique feature, which spans many life zones and diverse landforms.
The Rio Hondo has served land-based peoples in many ways, including extensive traditional acequia agriculture, upland forests, woodlands, and important wildlife areas. The river's headwaters are also the site of mining and ski industry development, as well as recreation associated with the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, New Mexico's highest alpine site. In addition to describing biodiversity attributes of tributaries to the Rio Hondo, many of which originate in wilderness areas, we also discussed efforts to improve water quality and flows, as well as in-channel habitat improvement and restoration projects.