Soil & Water Conservation 

Andrew Hautzinger

With 2023 now in the rear-view mirror, I find myself looking hopefully to the New Year—anticipating many good things to come. Please dear readers indulge me in this aspirational list of things that I wish to happen before the arrival of 2025:  

  1. On Nov. 7, 2023, the voting public empowered a new board of supervisors to lead the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District. Last Thursday, the newly-elected supervisors were sworn in by Magistrate Judge John Chavez.  

My very first wish for the New Year is that this year is one of mission achievement for my organization, a time that makes these new and returning leaders proud of their time of volunteer service to their community.  

  1. My second wish is that the same pride of achievement I hope for my board is felt by the district’s staff of five, and that health and happiness fills out their 2024. 
  2. On Jan. 18, 2024, VSWCD joined the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program, becoming the 17th member of this organization (focused on recovery of the five endangered species managed for in the MRG). 

For 2024, I wish VSWCD conducts at least one experiment on our land that produces a report that reduces some core uncertainty associated with an aspect of species and habitat management associated with the administration of the Endangered Species Act (e.g., looking at a water management or plant species selection consideration).  

  1. My fourth wish is that VSWCD works with NMDA to double the yearly number of citizens who participate in NMDA’s Health Soil Program. In 2023, we had four citizens who applied and were awarded grants for support of conservation projects on their private lands. Interested? Call VSWCD at 505-864-8914, or visit for more details. Application window opens Feb. 23 and closes at noon on April 26. 
  2. Wish No. 5 is inspired from the recently concluded COP28 held in Dubai. While there’s a host of reasons to be cynical about the United Nations Global Climate Summits, in 2024 I join many others wishing that this is the year where we really see the first reduction in global emissions. Might sound farfetched, but the forecasts say it is possible. 
  3. My sixth wish for this still new year is to see a successful ninth year of the two community gardens located at the community centers managed by Valencia County Public Works in El Cerro Mission and Meadow Lake. VSWCD is working closely with the county and Youth Development Inc. to make this wish a reality. These community gardens are powerful community assets needing our TLC. 
  4. Lucky wish No. 7 goes out to all visitors to the VSWCD’s Whitfield lands, wishing that 2024 attendance outpaces the record number of visitors (4,726) seen at the facility in 2023 (an increase of 30 percent from 2022).

Save the date: Besides coming to walk the trails at the 97-acre Whitfield preserve during our open hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday) here’s the next few events VSWCD is hosting (visit for more details):   

March 23: Agriculture Appreciation Day  

April 20: VSWCD’s annual Earth Day Fiesta  

May 11: Lavender Workshop  

  1. Wishing for a successful recruitment for seasonal jobs that VSWCD has coming up this spring, with diverse duties ranging from outdoor grounds-maintenance work, to monitoring environmental changes after the Big Hole Fire or working up at the community gardens.

VSWCD is excited to be trying a new type of position that just opened through AmeriCorps VISTA. This will be a full time year-long position starting in mid-April. VISTA is a unique program focused on poverty reduction and building enhanced capacity in local organizations. What’s not to love? So the VISTA member will not be a field worker like our other positions, but one who researches and builds networks and is paid on a monthly stipend. Contact us, and/or visit our website to learn more about these exciting upcoming opportunities to join our team!  

  1. Wish numero nine is to hold a big christening ceremony to celebrate a wonderful new pedestrian bridge over the riverside drain just west of Whitfield. The bridge over the “clear ditch” was funded through a capital outlay to MRGCD with sponsorship of several local legislators, and now offers public access to El Rio directly from the Whitfield trails. We plan to have MRGCD and VSWCD boards hold a public event in March or April—stay tuned. 

Well, perhaps your lucky day, as I only got to New Year Wish No. 10 before I ran out column space. Rest assured, the VSWCD team will be working on making the missing 15 wishes for 2024 realties, too.   

Please feel free to email me at [email protected] with questions or expressions of interest in anything I mentioned in the above wish list. May 2024 be a time for your own wish achievements! 

Andrew Hautzinger, guest columnist
VSWCD District Director | 505-850-2167 | [email protected]

Andrew Hautzinger has been the district director for the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District since 2020. Prior to that, he was a volunteer VSWCD board member for 12 years and spent many years volunteering at the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area.

Hautzinger has a bachelor of science in watershed sciences from Colorado State University. He worked for more than 27 years as a federal hydrologist working for agencies within the Department of Interior including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. National Park Service, and for the final 20 years of his career, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ National Wildlife Refuge System.