2015 NM Climate Masters was a success!

It was held on Tuesday evenings (5:30-8 p.m.) March 10-May 12, 2015

Here are a list of the topics and some of the expert speakers for the 10 class sessions:

Climate Change Communication (Eileen Everett, Education Director with the Santa Fe Watershed Association)

Local Food and Agriculture (Don Bustos, Farmer and Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee-New Mexico)

Renewable Energy (Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director and President of New Energy Economy)

Science (Craig Allen, Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Jemez Mountains Field Station)

Water (Andy Otto, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Watershed Association)

Land Management (Courtney White, Quivira Coalition)

Consumption and Waste (Adam Schlacther, Recycling Outreach and Education Coordinator with Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Authority and Juliana Ciano, Outreach Coordinator with Reunity Resources)

Permaculture (Reese Baker, Owner and Founder of The Raincatcher, Inc.)

Green Architecture/Green Businesses (Amanda Hatherly, Director of the New Mexico Energy$mart Academy and The Center for Excellence for Green Building and Energy Efficiency at the Santa Fe Community College)

Transportation (Annette Granillo, Transit Operations Manager, Santa Fe Trails and Dan Baker, EnviroKarma)

2014 Class Project: Rain Gardens

Erosion control, water catchment, and vegetation enhancement along the Santa Fe River trail near Don Jose Street providing riverbank restoration, beautification, and improved wildlife habitat.

Class Project Participants: Athena Beshur, Rob Bloom, Sue Dean, Susan Gallaher, Liz Pawlak, Chadette Pfaff, and Karen Strawn

The 2014 SFWA Climate Masters Class learned from presentations by various people and organizations that have a stake in creating a sustainable life here in Santa Fe. Topics included renewable energy, fuel-efficient transportation, water ethics, local food suppliers, forest changes and tree mortality, recycling, and water catchment systems. These various perspectives are all critical components of sustaining our complex society and ecosystem.
As part of the class curriculum, participants are required to give 30 hours each towards a community project that will help combat the effects of Climate Change. The class was greatly surprised to learn that about 6 billion gallons of precipitation fall on Santa Fe each year, which is mostly wasted as it runs down city streets and rushes away into gutters and drainage ditches. Reese Baker, owner of “The Rain Catcher,” made a tremendous impression on the class when they were taken on a field trip to see his efficient and effective rain catchment systems. These provided enough water for a family’s use while supporting a lush outdoor environment with fruit, vegetables, perennials, and even a pond, all on just a small city lot.
Several members of the class attended one evening of the Santa Fe Community College class “Watershed Management” (ENVR 216) – part of their Sustainable Technologies Program. Instructor Aaron Kauffman, owner of “Southwest Urban Hydrology,” spoke about his land restoration and water catchment projects.
They saw first-hand the “rain gardens” he created in the parking lot at SFCC. These capture rain from the pavement’s impermeable surface to provide water for three “rain gardens” of plants and grass which are self-sustaining simply by precipitation. Seeing these simple, attractive, and efficient systems, the class decided they wanted to try their hands at creating these as their group project.
The city of Santa Fe has been working with the Santa Fe Watershed Association and others to restore the Santa Fe River and surrounding areas. The riparian habitat has been reestablished in some areas, particularly along the new Santa Fe River Trail, which has become widely used by walkers and bikers who now enjoy the beautiful environment along the walkway from St. Francis Street to Frenchy’s Field. The class found a rather barren and eroded area next to a city restoration site. They received permission from the City of Santa Fe River and Watershed Coordinator Brian Drypolcher to design and implement their Climate Masters restoration project at this site.
The class used “straw books” in trenches to provide erosion control on the riverbank slope. Grass seed was planted on the uphill side of the straw which promotes soil retention. Two “rain gardens” were created in the line of water flow by digging about 2 foot deep by 6 foot diameter reservoirs with sides braced with rocks. These are on-contour infiltration basin rain gardens, at the head of the incision, where erosion begins to degrade the hill. The basins are planted with native species of Four-wing Salt Bush , Winter Fat , Three Leaf Sumac , Service Berry , Western Sand Cherry, Burr Oak , Native Chokecherry , and Canadian Red Chokecherry.
The plants were suggested and in part donated by “Plants of the Southwest” for their ease of care in this environment and because they provide food, habitat and nesting materials for wildlife. Increasing vegetation also leads to cooler temperatures and lowers evaporation.
The project site can be identified by two sign posts, donated by Rhino with the Santa Fe Watershed Association logo and a rain garden diagram.

The 2014 Climate Masters class thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience, working together on a community project, and is proud of their contribution in making the Santa Fe River habitat more vital and attractive with increased resiliency to future Climate Change.


The Climate Masters program was developed at the University of Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative and is modeled after the Master Gardeners program. The purpose of a Climate Masters course is to provide approximately 30 hours of in-class programming to participants.  The programming is designed to provide ideas of how we can reduce our carbon footprints through a variety of ways including transportation, energy conservation, waste, consumption, food, and water issues.  Upon completion of the program, participants create and implement a 30 hour service project in the community. This project has two objectives for the participants: 1) Serve as a positive messenger of how we as individuals and a community can reduce our carbon footprint. 2) Incorporate the learned material into a small-scale, community service effort.

The New Mexico Climate Masters program was initiated in 2008 and in three and a half years has graduated 150 students.  In fall 2011, the New Mexico Environment Department cancelled the program and the Santa Fe Watershed Association began a fundraising effort to keep this successful program going. The first cohort of Climate Masters after this change graduated in August 2012 and went on to form Got Sol, a Santa Fe-based volunteer organization whose mission is to expand and increase the use of solar energy throughout New Mexico. With 300 days of sunshine, New Mexico has the potential to lead the nation in solar energy development, create jobs, spur economic development, all while fighting climate change. Click here for more info about Got Sol.

The curriculum is designed to focus on climate change and water issues, specifically how recent and current forest management in the Upper Santa Fe Watershed, including prescribed burns, forest thinning, and reservoir management have increased the health of forests and will help protect our watershed from catastrophic wildfires. Weekly, expert guest speakers will provide an in-depth presentation in one of the topic areas. Participants in this program will also be taken on a field trip into the Upper Santa Fe Watershed to witness first-hand the efforts already undertaken to protect the watershed.

Once participants complete the 10 sessions and field trip, they will be required to complete at least 30 hours of community service before they receive the title of “Climate Master.”  The community service can be a combination of planned activities offered by the Santa Fe Watershed Association including river cleanups and tree plantings, and self-created outreach projects approved by the Education Director.

Please contact Eileen at eileen@santafewatershed.org or call 505-820-1696 for more information.