New Mexico

New Mexico

Reclaiming the Rio Grande by Removing Salt Cedar

Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge - 2003

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico was named for the Native Americans who once camped in the riverside forests along the majestic Rio Grande River. Now, the "woods of the Apache" are under siege from salt cedar, or tamarisk, a small, invasive tree introduced from Asia early last century.

A collaborative study and prescribed fire program is underway on the refuge to determine the best methods for removing salt cedar from the Rio Grande Valley and for restoring the area with native cottonwood and willow. Salt cedar is a major fire hazard along the Rio Grande corridor and has fueled several major fires there in recent years.

The U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Land Department, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the City of Albuquerque and other local state and federal partners are partners in this continuing project. Also, employees of the U.S. Forest Service and the University of New Mexico will help refuge staff monitor the project for the next few years.

So far, the project has eradicated 343 acres of salt cedar using machinery and prescribed fires. Some of the treated areas will be seeded with native trees and plants.

Other research plots are being cleared on the refuge and flood-irrigated to see if native plants will return without human assistance. So far, revegetation has occurred on two plots and the results are encouraging, with salt cedar and other weeds staying under control. Grasslands that were cleared and burned also are regenerating.

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