What is Restore?
In 2005, the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management (BLM) launched the Restore New Mexico initiative with the goal of restoring disturbed lands on a landscape scale through an ambitious partnership approach. What began as a concept has become a widely-successful restoration and reclamation program involving numerous agencies, organizations, ranchers and industry groups.
Landscape restoration in New Mexico has focused on controlling invasive brush species, improving riparian habitat, reducing woodland encroachment, and reclaiming abandoned oil and gas well pads.
In many areas, historic overuse of the land has transformed fragile desert grasslands and open woodlands into virtual wastelands of creosote and mesquite, and diverse streamside vegetation into barren monocultures of salt cedar. These gradual changes have greatly damaged the land’s biological productivity, resulting in less wildlife, degraded water quality and decreased supplies of groundwater.
Our goal is to reduce existing invasive and noxious species and thus allow more desirable vegetative species to flourish. This, in turn, will benefit the watershed by stabilizing soil and ultimately increase forb, grass and favorable shrub production, resulting in increased and improved habitat for a variety of wildlife.
The effort is truly historic, thanks to some significant opportunities that have arisen in the last four years. The BLM is working with state and federal agencies, ranchers and other landowners, conservation groups, local governments and other partners to accomplish big things:
- Creosote and mesquite deserts are being replaced with healthy grasslands that can support significantly greater biodiversity.
- Salt cedar is being removed from streams to restore our state’s iconic cottonwood-willow forests, recreating habitat for fish, birds and a host of other species.
- Overgrown woodlands are being restored to open savannas with abundant grasses and ‘browse species’ that beckon herds of mule deer and elk.
- Surface disturbance from historic oil and gas operations – from the time when there weren’t any requirements for surface reclamation – are being repaired, defragmenting (consolidating) wildlife habitat to benefit prairie chickens, sand dune lizards and other grassland-dependent species.
Restore New Mexico is much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s taking a vision and making it happen on the ground. With more than 3 million acres treated, and millions more planned, Restore has become a model for land restoration throughout the country.
Why Restore? Is there something wrong with our landscapes today?
In the early 19th Century, grasslands dominated much of New Mexico. Over the past century, however, grasses have given way to invasive and noxious species like creosote, mesquite, salt cedar and more, the result of overuse, drought and other factors. The left map shows vegetation levels before European settlement; note the overwhelming presence of grasslands across the state. The second map shows current levels of vegetation, in particular the vast expansion of shrub-dominated landscapes.
YELLOW = GRASS DOMINATED
ORANGE = SHRUB DOMINATED
GREEN = TREE DOMINATED