Picuris Pueblo is on its way toward creating a “Tribal Conservation District,” which Gov. Gerald Nailor hopes will help the Pueblo make irrigation, forest and grazing-management improvements.
A Sept. 14 meeting at Picuris regarding the proposed effort drew representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the USDA Farm Service Agency, New Mexico State University and others. Nailor said a land plan will be important as the Pueblo moves forward and seeks assistance and funding from outside organizations.
Nailor said he also hopes to involve Pueblo members in managing land and irrigation into the future.
“We’re training a young group,” he said.
Nailor said the Pueblo is particularly interested in putting fallow fields to productive use, in part to preserve water rights and educate younger tribal members about agricultural practices. He said the Pueblo must also work toward self-sufficiency as economic and environmental crises progress.
“We need to use our lands,” he said. “I’m excited to see what we can accomplish with this.”
The Sept. 14 meeting was convened in order to make introductions and get the Pueblo acquainted with the types of assistance various agencies can offer. Nailor said he hopes the meeting leads to opportunities to work with different agencies and find funding for various undertakings.
“It just opens doors,” he said.
Several agency representatives said funding is tight, but they can offer technical assistance for a variety of projects. Dennis Alexander, state conservationist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) said his department can assist with efforts such as irrigation improvements, forest thinning, invasive species programs and grazing management. He said the NRCS has engineers, agronomists, range conservationists and other specialists on staff to offer technical assistance on many different efforts. Alexander also said the NRCS can help Picuris procure funding.
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) representative Carlos Salazar said the BIA has lots of heavy equipment and irrigation and culvert pipes that could be put to use on Picuris Pueblo.
USDA Rural Development representative Elizabeth Kisten said that department can help communities such as Picuris with housing, business initiatives and community facilities.
Skip Miller, tribal liaison with the Carson National Forest, said the forest has collaborated with tribal entities on forest restoration projects and is willing to work together to look for ways to protect communities from wildfires.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Taos Field Manager Sam DesGeorges said the BLM will also help with thinning projects. DesGeorges suggested creating a group modeled after the Youth Corps that would help with such projects. Nailor said he likes the Youth Corps idea on a number of levels and hopes to pursue it.