The Galisteo Basin Preserve was conceived as a new model of stewardship-oriented, conservation-development. Located 14 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Galisteo Basin is internationally celebrated for its scenic, cultural, and wildlife habitat values.
Commonweal Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation-based community development organization based in Santa Fe, has spearheaded this ambitious landscape-scale protection initiative since 2003.
In collaboration with local nonprofit conservation organizations, Santa Fe County, resource protection professionals and countless community members, Commonweal Conservancy has worked for 15 years to acquire, plan and protect the preserve, previously known as the "Thornton Ranch." Prior to Commonweal's involvement, the 15-square-mile property was considered a high-risk development area—one whose peicemeal subdivision would irreparably compromise the region's unique scenic, wildlife habitat, water, historic and cultural attributes.
To protect the property's most significant environmental and cultural resources, in 2003, Commonweal Conservancy negotiated an agreement to purchase the Thornton Ranch in five phases. Rather than allow the property to be subdivided into large lot home sites, Commonweal proposed developing an environmentally-sensitive village development, known as Trenza, that would accommodate mixed-income residential and community-serving commercial development within a 300-acre area. Community design and construction standards were drafted to exemplify best practices of low-impact, resource-efficient, sustainable development.
The majority of the preserve—more than 9,000 acres—was configured to be set aside as protected open space. An extensive trail network was planned to facilitate public access through the preserve's open spaces to adjoining public lands and emergent regional recreation corridors.
During the early years of the project, sales of conservation homesteads supported the acquisition, protection, and stewardship of the preserve. Trenza's development was designed to repay Commonweal's land purchase loans and development costs -- a plan that was ultimately thwarted by an unrelenting economic recession.
Although a subset of the preserve's conservation development goals were accomplished, during the economic downturn, Commonweal was forced to set aside its development ambitions and devote its attention and resources to trail building, conservation easement overlays, fundraising and nonprofit partnership-building.
Toward that end, Commonweal's recently launched a $1.4M stewardship campaign is designed to ensure a future of permanently-protected trails and open spaces, restored wildlife habitat, and carefully conserved cultural resources.