The Galisteo Basin Preserve is the flagship initiative of Commonweal Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation-based community development organization located in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 2003, Commonweal Conservancy entered into a multi-year contract to acquire the Galisteo Basin Preserve—formerly known as the Thornton Ranch—for a combination of conservation and community development purposes. Since then, Commonweal has advanced the planning and development of several neighborhoods, along with the protection and restoration of the preserve’s open space.

For Commonweal and its partners, the Galisteo Basin Preserve is a model of stewardship-based community development —one that employs best practices of low-impact land development, environmental protection, habitat restoration, and recreation access. For residents of the Galisteo Basin Preserve, the design and development values of the project support an engaging quality of community, as well as a tangible connection to the ecological and cultural resources of the region.

A New Model of Conservation and Community Building

Since 2003, Commonweal Conservancy has championed an integrative practice of landscape-scale conservation and environmentally-responsible community development; one that embraces community-building and land stewardship as cornerstones of its nonprofit, public benefit mission.

For the past 15 years, the Galisteo Basin Preserve (GBP) has been the focus of Commonweal's conservation-based community development work. During its early years of practice, Commonweal pursued an ambitious plan to develop a large-scale mixed-use/mixed-income village, known as Trenza. Concurrently with its development planning, the organization partnered with the Santa Fe Conservation Trust to overlay nearly 5,000 of acres with highly restrictive conservation easements.  In partnership with local advocacy groups, the organization also built more than 28 miles of publicly-accessible hiking, cycling and equestrian trails.

A Rocky Road to Realization

With the onset of the Great Recession, however, the organization struggled to repay its land acquisition and infrastructure development loans.  By 2010, the nonprofit's credit obligations had lapsed into default and, in early 2017, the organization was threatened with foreclosure and potential bankruptcy. 

In response to the GBP's impending foreclosure, the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust offered to acquire Commonweal's outstanding loan obligations to protect the preserve's open spaces and trails, On July 2, 2018, the Thaw Trust purchased Commonweal's loan portfolio for approximately 50% of the organization's accrued $11.2M obligation. The Trust's extraordinary conservation investment was leveraged with gifts from a small group of individual donors and the proceeds from the sale of a conservation ranch.  

Spared from the foreclosure threat, Commonweal recently launched a $1.4M Stewardship Campaign to overlay the property with conservation easements, expand the GPB's trail network, improve access roads, upgrade trailheads, add facilities and re-capitalize the organization. The campaign will allow Commonweal to fulfill its original vision for the preserve: one in which community and conservation are mutually reinforcing and sustaining.

Here’s how you can help!

Your generous support to the GBP Stewardship Campaign will ensure that the wildlife, recreation, scenic and cultural resources of the Galisteo Basin Preserve are restored and reclaimed. Your gift will serve as a profound and lasting legacy for future generations.  

It will ensure that the preserve is a landscape... of forever!