New Mexico’s range-based natural resource concerns include invasive species encroachment, degraded and overgrazed grasslands, unhealthy woodlands, and compromised riparian areas. Just over fifteen years ago, the state and its private landowners said “enough” and banded together to make meaningful change on the New Mexican range.
Restore New Mexico is an aggressive conservation partnership aimed at restoring the state’s grasslands, woodlands, and riparian areas to healthy and productive conditions. Since its inception in 2002, the initiative has become a model for rangeland conservation in the the western United States in large part due to the leadership of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD). NMACD and the other partners of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Restore New Mexico initiative started with an ambitious goal of restoring millions of acres annually within priority watersheds across the state. One of the primary ways the partners would accomplish that goal, NMACD says, was by addressing invasive species on private, state, and federal range and woodlands in New Mexico. NMACD coordinates Restore New Mexico funding to help landowners reduce brush invasion and voluntarily implement conservation practices such as fencing, water development, and erosion control measures.
As of today, the Restore New Mexico initiative has restored nearly 3.5 million acres of degraded landscapes across the state. In a 2012 release recognizing the initiative’s success in providing better habitat for migratory birds, then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the effort “serves as a model for how we can accomplish large scale restoration efforts.” To date, the association has helped implement over 170 Coordinated Resource Management Plans (CRMP) through the program; and 13 New Mexico soil and water conservation districts have developed and implemented an additional 62 watershed- or landscape-scale treatments.
“From grassroots organizations to national groups, the BLM depends on its many conservation partnerships,” Mike Pool, the former BLM deputy director, said. “Unprecedented community support and collaboration with private landowners, industry groups, and conservation organizations have made Restore New Mexico a resounding success.”