Conservation Tour 2014

Annual Meeting

Valles Caldera National Preserve

The Jemez Mountains, visible to the west across the Rio Grande from Santa Fe, are one of New Mexico's "sky island" mountain ranges. They were formed by one of the three "supervolcanos" in North America (there are six known in the world) in a series of eruptions over the past 14 million years or so. Hidden by the surrounding peaks is a central depression called a caldera, formed by the central collapse of the volcanic area after many megatons of lava and ash were expelled. Over a dozen eruptions since then have created nine mountain domes within the caldera, covered in conifer forests and separated by grassy valles (Spanish for grass valleys). Two trout streams flow through these series of central valleys, nearly 12 miles across at the rim, and several more streams flow down the outer slopes. There have been several wildfires in these mountains over the past 20 years (and before, for millennia), including the 157,000 acre Las Conchas Fire of 2011 and the 25,000 acre Thompson Ridge Fire in 2013. The mountains and valleys are now in various stages of recovery. Several populations of genetically pure Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout were lost here in the Jemez Mountains, and more could be lost by future fires and their aftermath. The fires and subsequent floods also destroyed some populations of rival non-native trout, offering potential sites for stocking with native species after habitat recovery.

Thus the Jemez Mountains and the Valles Caldera offer a spectacular workshop venue to explore and study multiple factors affecting wild and native trout, including effects of fire, flood, invasive species, and climate change in general. The workshop, on site in the caldera, will be led by Bob Parmenter, PhD, chief scientist for the Valles Caldera National Preserve, with some of TU's own scientific community also available. The approximately one hour bus trip from Santa Fe will include background information given by TU New Mexico Council representatives familiar with the area, and time for questions and discussion en route to the caldera and the return to Santa Fe. Box lunch and beverages will be provided by TU. Once on site, the group will hike down through the Valle Grande along the East Fork of the Jemez River to "Hidden Valley", site of one of the Preserve's long-term fisheries monitoring program. The group will then visit one of the magnificent old-growth Ponderosa pine stands at the base of Redondo Peak (the central resurgent volcanic dome) to view and discuss watershed restoration activities and the role of fire effects on streams and fisheries in the Preserve.

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