A recipe for restoring New Mexico landscapes
—LINDA RUNDELL, NEW MEXICO STATE DIRECTOR, BUREAU
OF LAND MANAGEMENT
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been celebrating the
return of monsoon moisture to New Mexico. The drought’s over,
at least for now, and good things are happening on the ground.
The rain represents much more than just a temporary greening of
our grasslands; it’s the finishing touch in a statewide renewal
that’s taking place on federal, state, and private lands—a
renewal that’s benefitting fish and wildlife, and enhancing
our quality of life.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is working with a variety of
partners to restore landscapes to the healthy ecological states
our ancestors encountered when settling the Land of Enchantment.
We passed the 750,000-acre mark this summer for acres restored since
2005—and we’re nearing a once unheard-of goal to reclaim
a million acres of land in New Mexico by 2010.
Our Restore New Mexico effort is historic because of its vision
and scale. We’re working with state and federal agencies,
ranchers, energy companies, conservation groups, local governments,
and other partners to restore areas where historic overuse of the
land has transformed desert grasslands and open woodlands into monocultures
of creosote, mesquite, and juniper, and streamside areas into thick
stands of salt cedar. Restoration efforts include the following:
• Creosote and mesquite are being replaced with healthy grasslands
that can support much bigger populations of antelope and deer.
• Salt cedar is being removed from streams to restore our
iconic cottonwood/willow forests, recreating habitat for fish, birds,
and 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 were no requirements for surface reclamation)
are being repaired, defragmenting (consolidating) wildlife habitat
to benefit prairie chickens, sand dune lizards, and other grassland-dependent
In southeast New Mexico, the BLM and its partners restored more
than 115,000 acres of mesquite-infested grasslands to their natural
function in June, bringing the total acreage of grasslands restored
in the Permian Basin to 375,000 acres.
This year, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish reintroduced
antelope to an area south of Carlsbad that hadn’t seen pronghorns
for fifty years.
The BLM has also removed salt cedar along the Black and Delaware
Rivers south of Carlsbad, restoring healthy cottonwood/willow riparian
In areas north and west of Las Cruces, eighty thousand acres of
creosote have been treated (with another fifty-four-thousand acres
to be completed this year), benefitting grassland-dependent wildlife
and increasing groundwater supplies. Restored grasslands will be
used for future reintroductions of Aplomado falcons to New Mexico.
On Ladrón Peak north of Socorro, prescribed burns were conducted
on 8,500 acres of thick stands of juniper to help desert bighorn
sheep. Healthy mosaics of woodlands, grass, and brush will result.
Overgrown stands of trees have been reduced, invigorating high-value
food sources, but also removing many of the hiding places for cougars
that were preying on the sheep.
In the San Juan Basin, the BLM is closing and rehabilitating unneeded
or redundant roads to improve habitat for deer, elk, antelope, and
other wildlife, and decrease erosion and runoff from roads on public
lands. And near Taos, the BLM is ‘shaving’ patches of
dense sagebrush on public lands, creating rich grass/sage mosaics
It’s almost like we didn’t know what we lost. Grasslands
and open woodlands in our state used to host spectacular concentrations
of antelope, mule deer, elk, and other wildlife. Our rivers and
streams used to carry a lot more water, and perennial streams flowed
longer, providing homes to lots more fish than we find today.
The point is we can—and we will—see and enjoy healthy
To find out more about our efforts, visit our website at www.blm.gov/nm
and click on Restore New Mexico.
Department of Energy allocates money to weatherize your home
The New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority has received $1.7 million
to help low-income New Mexicans weatherize their homes.
The Department of Energy (DOE) awarded funds through its National
Energy Technology Laboratory. The grant is the latest installment
of over $10.4 million awarded by DOE so far for New Mexico’s
low-income weatherization assistance program.
The DOE Weatherization Assistance Program provides assistance to
low income homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their
homes and reduce utility costs. For more information on weatherization
and low-income energy programs in New Mexico, visit: http://www.eere.energy.gov/weatherization/cfm/index.cfm/state_abbr=nm.
USDA offers emergency loans to local farmers
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated
thirty-one counties in New Mexico—including Sandoval, Bernalillo,
and Santa Fe—natural disaster areas due to drought. Rick Lopez,
State Executive Director for the New Mexico Farm Service Agency
states, “Our farmers and ranchers in New Mexico have been
enduring a tough year in most parts of the state. This drought,
which began late last year, has put an extreme burden on livestock
producers to get feed for their cattle. Our farmers are struggling
to get a harvest on several crops.”
All qualified farm operators in the designated areas are eligible
for low-interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service
Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers have
eight months from the date of the declaration (July 30, 2008) to
apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. For information
on this or other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers,
contact the local USDA service center at 761-4900 or online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.
Mountain wildflowers of the Southern Rockies and Central NM
Moss Campion Silene Acaulis
—CAROLYN DODSON AND WILLIAM W. DUNMIRE
These delicate alpine jewels can charm even the most jaded mountaineer.
Low leafy mounds are covered with half-inch-wide flowers bearing
rose-pink petals that are oblong and slightly notched at the tip.
Crowded with tiny, grasslike leaves, moss campion truly does resemble
a clump of moss. Acaulis (lacking a stem) indicates that
the flower stalks arise directly from the crown. Moss campion is
restricted to the alpine zone where it regularly graces the tundra.
The common family name refers not to flower color, which in most
species is white, but to another definition of the word pink—“to
cut with indented edges,” as in pinking shears. Indeed, petals
are often notched, or pinked, at the tip. Leaves are opposite and
narrow, and the stems enlarge at the points of leaf attachment.
Carnation, baby’s breath, sweet William, and moss campion
are ornamentals in the Pink Family.
An abbreviated growing season, frigid temperatures, stiff winds,
intense solar radiation, and rocky substrate challenge plants at
high elevations. Low moisture is also a problem because snow often
blows away before melting, and rain can turn to inaccessible frost
in icy soil. As a result, few species are able to succeed in such
habitats and only those uniquely adapted survive.
Many alpine plants hug the ground below the main force of the wind,
forming low compact mounds or pincushion profiles. Dense clustering
of the leaves limits water loss. Alpine plant seeds germinate in
crevices where the wind has deposited small accumulations of soil
and where surrounding rocks radiate some warmth. Alpine species
are perennial, growing slowly during short unpredictable summers.
Because plant growth, flowering, and seed set take place during
the short season of above-freezing temperatures, the simultaneous
flowering creates a stunning multi-hued carpet.
In extreme years alpine plants remain virtually dormant and may
even have to shed some branches for lack of resources to maintain
the plant through an especially severe winter. Yet once established,
they may survive for years, and some alpines may live longer than
Of course conditions harsh for vegetation are harsh for pollinating
insects as well. Flies are the most common visitors to mountain
heights, but they, too, are adversely affected by cold and wind.
Plants compete for scarce pollinators with colorful bowl-shaped
flowers containing nectar that is easily accessible to any passing
Excerpted from Mountain
Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies, by Carolyn Dodson and
William W. Dunmire. Published by University of New Mexico Press.
Residents of Placitas help to clean-up open space
Las Placitas Association hosts outdoor workshops
The Las Placitas Association (LPA) will be hosting two outdoor
workshop projects during September. First, please join us for our
annual post-Labor Day weekend cleanup in Las Huertas Canyon on Saturday,
September 6. This is one of our favorite events—the mountain
air will be crisp, and fall color and wildflowers will be getting
underway. Meet at the Placitas Post Office at 8:30 am and we’ll
carpool up to the Las Huertas picnic area and work until noon. Please
bring work gloves and rain gear, wear sturdy boots, and bring some
extra water to drink. Staff from the Cibola National Forest will
be on hand to assist us to keep our Canyon beautiful! LPA will provide
drinks and snacks.
Then, on Saturday, September 13, we’ll be hosting another
workshop on trail construction and maintenance out on the Placitas
Open Space. We’ll be joined by a crew of trail specialists
from the City of Albuquerque, and will continue work on constructing
new trails and closing old roads in the Las Huertas Creek area.
This work is part of LPA’s continuing efforts to assist the
City of Albuquerque in implementing the Management Plan for the
Placitas Open Space. Las Placitas and the City of Albuquerque will
provide tools, drinks, and snacks for this event. Please wear sturdy
work clothes, and bring work gloves, a sun hat, extra water, and
rain gear. We’ll meet at the Placitas Post Office at 8:30am,
carpool to the site, and work until about noon. The Open Space is
beautiful this time of year, and your participation helps to assure
the viability of the Placitas Open Space.
For more information on the workshops and LPA, visit http://www.lasplacitas.org
or call Lolly Jones at 771-8020.