On September 7, 2023, the Santa Fe Watershed Association in Santa Fe, New Mexico, presents the 2023 Santa Fe Watershed Fest – a participatory series celebrating the health and vibrancy of their local watershed. As part of the festival, they are showing a slate of eight films from the Wild & Scenic On Tour catalog at the Violet Crown Cinema along with a reception with some of the filmmakers.
The mission of the Santa Fe Watershed Association is to protect and restore the health and vibrancy of the Santa Fe River and its watershed for the benefit of people and the environment. They achieve this through education, restoration, stewardship, and advocacy. From the River’s headwaters to the Rio Grande, they honor the connection of people and the watershed.
Local hydrologist Paige Grant founded the Santa Fe Watershed Association in 1997 to combat the consequences of gravel mining in the village of Agua Fria, where the bed of the Santa Fe River had been the primary source of gravel for the area since the 1940s. Ongoing mining had stripped away most of the riparian habitat in the area. Once work began on restoring the river at Agua Fria, Paige quickly recognized a lack of a singular voice for the health of the river and the watershed as a whole. This realization quickly resulted in a more expanded mission and vision for the watershed.
In 2007 the Santa Fe River was named America’s Most Endangered River by American Rivers, which led SFWA to advocate for a Living River Ordinance. The City of Santa Fe passed the Ordinance in 2012, which allocates up to 1000 acre-feet of water per year for the river in “normal” (non-drought) years.
The river now supports a diversity of wildlife and flora, as well as a nearly continuous green space for people to enjoy. Santa Fe Watershed Association continues to promote holistic management of the watershed through their various programs and many invaluable collaborations with local nonprofits and city, county, state, and federal government branches.
The Santa Fe area faces the ongoing danger of catastrophic fire due to an overgrown upper watershed, located above the city drinking supply reservoirs. Management of the forests that safeguard the reservoirs has been an important theme for the Watershed Association, but in the past few years they have given new attention to the middle and lower stretches of the river.
In particular, they are advocating restoration of consistent flow to the river to support vegetation and wildlife habitat, while recharging the groundwater. They strive to create a sense of responsibility and common interest among all residents of the watershed. SFWA is also engaged in a number of restoration projects from The Santa Fe River Greenway project to The Santa Fe River Trail Corridor Project.
You can find a list of their projects HERE.
Additionally, SFWA’s education programs have provided opportunities for locals to experience the Santa Fe River and its watershed through both school and public programs. SFWA’s education programs are designed to highlight a variety of ecosystems and explore ways that humans impact water and water impacts humans.
Tony Ricketts from the Santa Fe Watershed Association Board reports, “Our event traces back to 2018, the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, when I was Googling “Wild & Scenic Rivers films”. The next year, 2019, was our first year hosting the festival. Encouraged by a sold-out in-person event, we continued through the pandemic, virtually in 2020 and 2021, hybrid in 2022, and now back to in-person this year.”
“The festival has improved visibility of our Association, and we are now building a larger festival with Wild & Scenic as the featured event.”
“We will have local film and hands-on events before and after, and this gives the flexibility to experiment with different types of associated events to find out which are most effective in building community.”
“For me, personally, it is mainly about the amazing collection of films that Wild & Scenic offers to On Tour hosts each year. I have learnt so much watching all the remarkable films over five years. Each year it is a similar cycle, wondering whether this year enough films in the collection will be relatable to the arid Southwest and relevant to a watershed organization like ours, enjoying screening through the available films, and finally ending up with more than enough to fill a program.”
“Then it is a question of how the audience will react. Will they value each film as much as I do? There seems never to be one film that is everyone’s favorite; however, everyone usually comes away with one or more film that resonates with them.”
“Of course, nothing is accomplished as a single individual. The festival has brought me into much closer collaboration with Wild & Scenic staff and their thorough event-planning system, our Association Staff and other Board members, sponsors, film offices, venues, technicians and the whole village that it takes to put on a film festival.”