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Taos Land Trust Now Hiring Youth Crews to Restore Vigil y Romo Acequia

03
Apr

Taos Land Trust Now Hiring Youth Crews to Restore Vigil y Romo Acequia

We are creating restoration economy jobs in Taos New Mexico by refurbishing New Mexico’s agricultural heritage and restoring wetlands in the center of town.

Thank you for applying. Deadline has expired for May 13, 2018

The Vigil y Romo Acequia hasn’t seen water in decades. Standing over the dry ditch on a recent breezy spring afternoon, staff from the Taos Land Trust assessed the work needed to get the water flowing again.

“This isn’t going to be easy,” said Kristina Ortez, our Executive Director. “This ditch has not been used for decades, so it will need to be cleaned, and likely engineered at its diversion point.”

To get the work done we have a contract with the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) to hire fourteen area youth and two skilled crew leaders. The youth crews will help restore the Vigil y Romo acequia and its laterals. They will also assist with invasive plant mitigation, our ongoing wetland restoration and preparation of thirteen acres of agricultural lands and possible orchard sites. Central to this work are extensive educational opportunities ranging from learning about water rights and acequias in Northern New Mexico to tree pruning, water and land ecological health, ArcGIS mapping, and identifying invasive species.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer this kind of opportunity to the community,” says Ortez. “Conservation is an economic driver in general but in small communities like Taos, organizations like ours can have a significant impact on the economy.”

jobs in taos new mexico
Photo: courtesy of The Taos News

On February 15, 2018 members of the Vigil y Romo acequia met at the offices of the Taos Land Trust in downtown Taos to restore the ancient irrigation system. The five members, known as parciantes, established new by-laws, elected officers and set a plan in motion to get water back in the ditch perhaps as soon as this summer, though drought conditions this year might prohibit that.

The youth crew positions are 40 hours a week at $10/hour and are available for those between the ages of 16-25. The two crew lead positions are likewise for 40 hours a week at $12/hour. Work will run late May through mid August 2018.

In December 2015, the Taos Land Trust, with the help of the LOR Foundation, purchased the 20-acres of the former Romo farm adjacent to Fred Baca Park along the Rio Fernando. With that purchase, we became the largest water rights holder on the old Vigil y Romo ditch. The acequia, which once watered corn and alfalfa fields as well as a wide array of fruit trees and several market gardens, hadn’t actually seen water in it since the 1960s.

An acequia is a man-made irrigation system that carries water from mountain creeks and rivers to agricultural fields. This form of irrigation was born in the mountains of Morocco and brought to Spain in the middle ages. The Spanish carried it to the Americas in the 1500s. Today, the only remaining systems of this type in North America are found in northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. The acequia is a communal system that has benefits far beyond the growing of crops. The systems extend the riparian ecosystems beyond the corridor of rivers and streams generating forests of cottonwood, willow and other native species that in turn provide wildlife habitat. The acequias also recharge shallow water aquifers. It is estimated that up to 70% of the water removed from a river for an acequia system returns to the river.

The revitalization of the acequia is just one step in a much larger vision. We aim to irrigate 13-acres of now fallow agricultural land and offer opportunities for community gardens and other agricultural projects. We are also restoring an extensive seven-acre wetland on the property and working with the community to create a new public park complete with walking paths right in the center of Taos.

jobs in taos new mexico

“We are creating jobs in Taos New Mexico. Right here,” says Ortez. “Employment opportunities that come via restoration activities help rural communities like Taos and we are looking to expand our role in the restoration economy in the coming years. Pairing environmental restoration and conservation with job creation and social benefits such as preserving our agricultural heritage is a win-win situation.”

“We feel that conservation efforts are most sustainable when the whole community is part of the process,” says Ortez. “Conservation works best when it brings people together and builds community resiliency. Getting the acequia in play again is a key part of that.”

Anyone interested in the Youth Conservation Corps positions can get more information at info@taoslandtrust.org

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