Riparian Improvement

Portions of Pecos River Restored

Pioneering travelers described the Pecos River of eastern New Mexico and West Texas as generally 65 to 100 feet wide and seven to ten feet deep, with a fast current only fordable in a few places. Today, flows have dwindled and water quality has declined. Salt cedar (tamarisk) and other non-native plant species now dominate the riparian system, taking in water that would otherwise remain in the channel. A salt cedar tree of eight-inch diameter takes in 200 or more gallons of water per day.

In the BLM Roswell Field Office, BLM staff, private contractors, grazing permittees, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish are cooperating through the Restore New Mexico project. The BLM removed salt cedar plants with contracted extractors attached to backhoes or excavators, while protecting native cottonwood trees. BLM fire staff and cooperators then used prescribed fire to clean up the removed vegetation and restore nutrients to the soil. This was followed up with ground-based herbicide treatment of any returning sprouts or seedlings of invasive species.

In the BLM Carlsbad Field Office, the Carlsbad Soil & Water Conservation District began salt cedar removal in that area in 2002 with aerial spraying, followed by mechanical extraction. The BLM then treated surrounding lands to prepare for safe burning of piles of removed vegetation.

                                  

Native grasses in treated areas have returned quickly and thickly – exactly as hoped – providing reassurance that a damaged ecosystem can be restored to its former condition.