Roswell Field Office conducts Earth Day sinkhole cleanup project

Volunteers working on an Earth Day cleanup in Roswell, New Mexico.
BLM and volunteers at sinkhole cleanup site.

Story and photos by Knutt Peterson, Outdoor Recreation Planner/Cave Specialist.

On April 24, the BLM New Mexico Roswell Field Office Cave and Karst Program, in partnership with the National Cave and Karst Research Institute and the Southwestern Region of the National Speleological Society, conducted a sinkhole cleanup project on public lands. The event took place as an outreach activity for the International Year of Cave and Karst, while coinciding with the Earth Day weekend.

Some metal waste removed from the sinkhole.
Some metal waste removed by volunteers from the sinkhole

Ten volunteer cavers and two BLM staff members joined forces to remove trash from a sinkhole in Lincoln County, New Mexico. The volunteers removed 100 years-worth of items, including an old fence, windmill parts, corrugated tin, tires, and broken glass. Approximately 4,000 pounds of metal were recycled, and the non-recyclables were disposed of properly.

A dump trailer distributes materials to a recycling facility.
A dump trailer distributes materials removed from the sinkhole to a recycling facility.

The BLM conducts these cleanups and outreach projects to help educate the public about the importance of karst on our landscape and its connection to groundwater. Karst is a vulnerable landscape due to a thin cover of soil over rocky terrain, rapid water infiltration underground, fast groundwater drainage, the potential spread of contamination in different directions, and long-term retention of harmful substances. 

Before and after project work.
Before and after the project cleanup.

Thanks to BLM staff and to the volunteers who donated 90 hours of their time to clean up this sinkhole on our public lands, helping to protect future generations' groundwater.