New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office recommendations for project proposals involving Spring Development and Livestock Watering Facilities



Springs and earthen stock tanks are important elements of livestock grazing allotments. Springs are islands of biodiversity and can provide habitat for many animal and plant species, including federally listed species and species of concern. The riparian vegetation that surrounds headwater springs acts as a filter and a sponge, trapping sediment and soaking up water, reducing the likelihood of downstream channel incision during snowmelt/storm events and releasing water slowly over a long period in the summer. Spring development and improper livestock use of spring-created riparian areas can result in changes to spring integrity, including less water to support the wetland or spring riparian area and reduced water quality. We encourage efforts to protect and restore springs and their associated habitats.

The effects of earthen tanks can be beneficial, negative, or both, for animals and the surrounding habitats. They can provide important habitat and water sources for wildlife species and function to catch sediment in areas with high rates of erosion. However, the effects of earthen tanks on watershed hydrology, water quality, riparian vegetation and federally protected species and species of concern should be assessed before tanks are constructed or maintained. Earthen tanks alter the hydrology of groundwater and surface water by impounding water and increasing evaporative and consumptive losses. These impacts may result in reduced riparian habitat, reduced water availability for wildlife, fish, and plant species in downstream areas, and can reduce the composition and abundance of riparian and aquatic species. Where feasible, the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office recommends that earthen tanks be modified to maximize benefits for fish and wildlife.