Garrett VeneKlasen

The recent death of a man from multiple gunshots on the Caja del Rio is just the latest tragic incident that speaks to a culture of lawlessness that has been allowed to persist on the Caja. As community leaders in a diverse coalition working to protect the Caja del Rio, we write to express our urgent concerns regarding the need for more responsible stewardship and permanent protection of this amazing landscape.

Over the past year, our coalition has seen an increase in threats to the Caja’s landscape, wildlife and cultural resources, including vandalism and defacement of sacred sites and petroglyphs, illegal dumping, theft of personal and government property, poaching of wildlife, illegal off-highway vehicle use, unlawful shooting and overall threats to public safety.

The Caja is an area of profound cultural, historical archaeological and wildlife significance that serves as the gateway to the city of Santa Fe. Unfortunately, the two federal agencies that manage the area — the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service — lack the sufficient resources and personnel to adequately safeguard the area from all these challenges. Last year alone, two major vandalism incidents occurred at La Cieneguilla Petroglyph site.


The Rev. Andrew Black is a minister at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, the public lands field director for the National Wildlife Federation and the founder of EarthKeepers 360. Other signers of this piece include Keegan King, Garrett VeneKlasen, Max Trujillo, Carmichael Dominguez, Demis Foster, Ralph Vigil, Alexandra Merlino, Julian Gonzales, Jesse Deubel and Brophy Toledo, all representing groups that endorse protection for the Caja del Rio.