The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Add water and stir
A recipe for restoring New Mexico landscapes


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 species.

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 ecosystems.

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 for wildlife.

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 landscapes again.

To find out more about our efforts, visit our website at 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:

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

Moss Campion

Mountain wildflowers of the Southern Rockies and Central NM

Moss Campion Silene Acaulis

Pink Family—Caryophyllaceae

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.

Pink Family
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.

Alpine Plants
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 humans.

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 insect.

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 or call Lolly Jones at 771-8020.

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