The Santa Fe Girls’ School announces a fund to protect the Santa Fe River and Wetlands on its 9-acre property within the La Cieneguilla portion of the Santa Fe River Watershed. The School is engaged in litigation to establish protection for the site. The judge’s ruling in this case has the potential to establish legal precedent and impact the rights of landowners, now and in the future, to restore and support natural habitat and ecology on their land.

Beaver dam within the School’s restored 9-acre habitat.

Flourishing riparian habitat within the School’s restored wetland along the Santa Fe River.

Walking path into the School’s riparian habitat.

The property is the outdoor laboratory for Boots in the River: Emerging Scientists, a hands-on environmental science program for middle school students. As land stewards, they have been working for 13 years to restore this wetland to a healthy riparian environment. Student-scientists’ efforts have resulted in invaluable scientific data that is shared with other agencies, private and public. This information has helped inform public policy and furthered understanding of the natural dynamics of a healthy river, a flourishing riparian habitat, and a fully functioning wetland.

This land stewardship has led to marked environmental regeneration of the site’s ecosystem, and beaver families have arrived and built a dam. This dam has further enhanced the habitat and the wetland is flourishing, hosting a diverse range of wildlife, including the endangered Willow Flycatcher and Leopard Frog.

An adjacent downstream neighbor has sued the School claiming the wildlife, particularly the beaver, is a nuisance and has adversely affected his land. He asserts that it is his right to kill the beaver and remove the dam that is on the school’s property.

The school’s position is that the beaver is natural to the ecology of a wetland and floodplain and their activities enhance rather than harm the neighbor’s land by raising the groundwater level and bringing nutrients as well as water to thirsty cottonwoods and meadows.

“It could be a stunningly broad consequence to anyone who has property in New Mexico because there is lots of wildlife all around,” Santa Fe Girls’ School Attorney Brian Egolf said of the lawsuit.

The Santa Fe Girls’ School’s legal case advocates for landowners’ rights to restore and maintain natural habitat and ecology on their property and to protect the wildlife that is attracted to it. The legal decision in this case will affect landowners statewide and may have broader implications. If the School’s rights are upheld in court, its outdoor science laboratory also will continue to flourish and Boots in the River will continue to inspire young women to find their passion as environmental scientists and advocates.

The school firmly believes this case is worth the battle because of its broader implications.

[If the School loses its right to restore and protect the natural ecology of the riparian site then …] “Private landowners, basically anywhere, [would] have a duty to control the populations, and the activities of wildlife on private property, up to and including killing and trapping wildlife.”— SFGS Attorney, Brian Egolf

The school invites all those passionate about defending the rights of landowners to restore and steward a natural habitat, to contribute generously to this fund.

This case could set a precedent that protects the rights of landowners and stewards to make environmentally sound decisions, and assure the health of rivers and their ecosystems for future generations.

Photos: Santa Fe River & Wetland Protection Fund

For more information, please call Lee Lewin, Program Director at 505-820-3188 or via email at

To donate online please go to: Support A Project

Please note that you can also mail your donations to:

135 West Palace Avenue, Suite 301
Santa Fe, NM 87501

and designate the Santa Fe River & Wetlands Protection Fund.