Mesquite Targeted in Effort to Restore New Mexico

Favorable weather in June 2007 helped land managers in the Pecos District of eastern New Mexico treat more than 37,600 acres of land under BLM-management to remove mesquite that overgrows other vegetation to alter the area's watershed function and fire regimes. 


Sky and wind conditions allowed the June treatment to proceed with targeting the aerial application of herbicide to avoid habitat for sensitive species such as the lesser prairie chicken and aplomado falcon.

Global positioning system (GPS) shapefiles were loaded into onboard computers in fixed-wing aircraft so that the spray can be turned off when the aircraft is flying above sensitive areas.  In all, the June mesquite spray treated 63,476 acres, using both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. 




Results are seen in as little as seven days following herbicide treatments, with leaves of treated plants yellowing.  In 90 days, leaves have dropped off sprayed plants.  Above left, the predominance of brush (84% of vegetation) leaves bare ground where grasses should be.  The middle photo shows the same area following herbicide treatment of the mesquite.  Grasses now constitute 55% of the vegetation, brush 28%.  At right, grasses are flourishing 90 days after the mesquite was treated with herbicide and the area received adequate rainfall.

Once the grass has been re-established, additional herbicide treaments are not needed because the landscape can then be maintained using prescribed fire.

The BLM estimates that about one-fourth of the 13.4 million acres of public land in New Mexico need some restoration activity to help return these lands to a healthier, natural state.  BLM-New Mexico is working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Soil and Water Conservation Districts, private landowners, and state government in the Restore New Mexico initiative, which focuses on returning landscapes to pre-1900 conditions by dealing with invasive and exotic brush species, including mesquite, juniper, creosote and salt cedar

In 2006, the BLM and its partners restored and reclaimed 145,000 acres of public land, much of it in southeastern New Mexico.  A total of 200,000 acres are planned for treatment under the initiative in 2007.  Restore New Mexico is also a component of the Department of Interior's Healthy Lands Initiative.