Come join the growing number of private landowners, Indigenous/Native peoples, and others who have restored fish and wildlife habitat on their land in New Mexico, with the help of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program!

General Information

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program) is a voluntary partnership program that provides technical and financial assistance to non-Federal landowners to improve fish and wildlife habitats for Federal trust species (e.g., threatened, endangered, and candidate species, migratory birds, and other declining species). With over 50 percent of New Mexico in private ownership, there are ample opportunities for habitat restoration on private land. Restoration activities that may be funded include, but are not limited to, the following habitat types:  riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

Learn more about riparian
 areas, in-stream areas, wetlands, and uplands. Examples of funded projects include: controlling invasive plants, planting native vegetation, fencing sensitive areas, and installing wildlife water sources, prescribed fire, livestock grazing management, and reseeding disturbed areas.

Private landowners generally provide 25 percent or more of the cost-share funding and/or in-kind services (labor, equipment, and materials). One-to-one cost share may be achieved by partnering with a host of nationally-based and local partners with wildlife habitat funding programs and technical expertise. Generally, the maximum funding amount is $25,000 per project. Funding is provided through a reimbursable cost- share agreement, called a Private Lands Agreement (PLA). The term of the PLA is 10 years.


Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2105 Osuna Road NE Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113

Gwen Kolb, State Coordinator: (505)761-4711

Maceo Martinet (ABQ Office): (505)761-4752

Angel Montoya (Las Cruces Office): (575) 525-4350

Focus Areas

In New Mexico, four emphasis areas have been identified to receive priority ranking for qualified projects. These areas were selected based on habitat and fish and wildlife species needs.

Focus Areas:
  • Middle Rio Grande
  • Upper Rio Grande
  • Great Plains
  • Southwest Montane

Middle Rio Grande

The Middle Rio Grande Focus Area encompasses more than 2.25 million acres in a 2-mile- wide corridor along both sides of the Rio Grande from Cochiti Dam to the Elephant Butte Reservoir. Approximately 77 percent of the area supports a combination of Chihuahuan  desert scrub, desert grassland, and plains-mesa sand scrub habitats.  Farmlands and open water cover over 16 percent of the focus area.

Possible Conservation Actions
  • Broad-scale habitat restoration along the middle reach of the Rio Grande.
  • Improve riparian riparian
    Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

    Learn more about riparian
  • Improve emergent lakes and wetlands.
  • Maintain agricultural lands with practices to benefit priority species.
  • To improve the ecosystem integrity to approximate the historic conditions

Upper Rio Grande 

The Upper Rio Grande Focus Area is located in north-central New Mexico. It consists of approximately 6 million acres and encompasses eight counties: Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Taos, Mora, San Miguel, and Bernalillo.  Approximately 75 percent (4,470,036 acres (6,984.4 square miles)) of the focus area is dominated by four habitat types: montane coniferous forest, subalpine coniferous forest, coniferous and mixed woodlands, and pinyon- juniper savanna.

Possible Conservation Actions
  • Enhance stream, wetland, and riparian habitats for increased species presence and diversity.
  • Enhance and improve grassland and upland habitats.
  • Enhance and promote habitat conservation and wildlife-compatible practices with farming and ranching communities.

Great Plains (High and Southern)

The NM High Plains Focus Area is located in eastern New Mexico and covers nearly 12 million acres. It is part of a sub-region of the Great Plains of North America and the dominant vegetation type is plains-mesa grassland.

Possible Conservation Actions
  • Improve stakeholder involvement in private lands conservation.
  • Improve riparian habitat in the Canadian River watershed.
  • Improve riparian habitat in the Pecos River watershed.
  • Improve playa habitat.
  • Improve upland habitats.

The Southern Great Plains Focus Area in southeastern New Mexico covers nearly 6 million acres and includes the occupied range of the lesser prairie-chicken, a candidate for Federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. The dominant vegetation types are plains-mesa sand scrub, including shinnery oak habitat, and plains-mesa grassland.

Possible Conservation Actions
  • Improve habitat for the lesser prairie- chicken.
  • Remove invasive shrubs, and reseed native grasses and forbs.
  • Facilitate improved grazing management (e.g., cross fencing, stock tanks, and fence removal).
  • Improve grazing management (e.g., pasture rotation and deferment from grazing) to enhance habitat for grassland-dependent species.
  • Expand partnership opportunities to provide broader, landscape-scale benefits to Federal trust species.

Southwest Montane

The Southwest Montane Focus Area in southwestern New Mexico encompasses public and private lands in Grant, and Catron counties for the Gila River and the San Francisco watershed. Vegetation in the SM is mainly grassland, scrub, woodlands, and forest habitat types.

Possible Conservation Actions
  • Involve more stakeholders in private lands conservation.
  • Habitat restoration on a broad scale.
  • Improve cienega (spring-fed) habitat.
  • Improve riparian habitat.
  • Implement prescribed fire projects in wooded uplands and grassland ecosystems to improve those habitats.
1. Can I apply to the PFW Program? 

Most of our Partners (Cooperators) are private, non- Federal, landowners. This includes individual private landowners, local and county agencies, municipalities, Native American Tribes, private/non-profit organizations, corporations, schools, and others. However, anyone interested in restoring and protecting wildlife habitat on private or tribal lands can get involved in the Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) Program.

Back to top

2. Are my lands eligible for restoration under this program? 

Any privately-owned land is potentially eligible for restoration. “Privately-owned” for the purposes of the PFW Program includes any land not owned by the Federal Government or a State.

Back to top

3. Who does the restoration? 

There are three options for completing restoration:

  1. the landowner restores the land and is reimbursed directly for some or all expenses;
  2. the landowner hires a contractor to complete the work and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) reimburses the landowner for payments made to the contractor; or
  3. Service employees can assist with on-the- ground work. (e.g., tree planting).

Back to top

4. What is the cost share rate for the Cooperator?

The percentage is flexible. Nationwide, the cost share rate is 50 percent, but in New Mexico it is often closer to 25 percent. In-kind services, such as labor, equipment use, and materials, can qualify as cost share, as well as landowner funds. The PFW Program works with other Federal, State, and local agencies, and private/non-profit organizations, whenever possible to leverage funding and in-kind assistance. Frequently, these partnerships result in more restoration activities and more acres or miles improved per project.

Back to top

5. How much funding can be requested for a project?

Project funding is generally limited to $25,000 or less. Higher amounts may be requested but may not be awarded without appropriate justification and approval.

Back to top

6. What is a Private Lands Agreement?

Before beginning a habitat restoration project, the Service, and the individual landowner (Recipient) must sign a Private Lands Agreement (PLA). This PLA states that the landowner will not return the project area to its former use, or alter or remove any project components (e.g., native vegetation, fences) for the specified term of the PLA. The term of the PLA is 10 years. If the Recipient wants to cancel the PLA, then he or she must reimburse the Service, on a pro-rated basis, for the Service funds expended on the project.

The Recipient retains all legal rights to the property. The PLA describes the work to be done, lists the project goals, and lists the cost estimates for the Service and the Recipient.

If the Recipient sells the property, the PLA goes with the land. The Recipient has the option to cancel the PLA and reimburse the Service, on a prorated basis, for the funds originally provided.

Back to top

7. What is a Cooperative Agreement?

Before beginning a habitat restoration project, the Service and the land manager or entity that is not an individual landowner (Cooperator) will sign a Cooperative Agreement (CA). Examples of a Cooperator are private landowners doing work as a business, Tribes, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and local or county governments. The CA states that the Cooperator will not return the project area to its former use, or alter or remove any project components (e.g., native vegetation, fences) for the specified term of the CA. If the Cooperator wants to cancel the CA, then he or she must reimburse the Service, on a pro-rated basis, for the Service funds expended on the project.

Back to top

8. When do I receive the money for the project?

PFW projects are reimbursable projects. This means that the Cooperator or Recipient is reimbursed for the costs they incur while implementing an approved project. For example, the Cooperator/ Recipient pays up front for materials, labor, and other project expenses and is then reimbursed by the Service. These funds are electronically deposited into an account authorized by the Cooperator/Recipient. The Cooperator/Recipient may perform the restoration and be reimbursed directly for acceptable expenses, or they can hire a contractor and the Service will reimburse the Cooperator/Recipient for those expenses. The Service does not pay the contractor directly. A Cooperator can also request Advanced Funds for scheduled supplies and work.

Back to top

9. How does the Service decide which projects are of highest priority?

Focus Areas within the State have been identified based on habitat and fish and wildlife species needs to receive priority ranking for well-qualified projects. These Focus Areas are displayed on the map, as the:

  • Middle Rio Grande
  • Upper Rio Grande
  • Great Plains
  • Southwest Montane

For the entire State, the Service focuses on projects in ecosystems and watersheds where conservation efforts will provide the greatest benefit for Federal trust species, such as migratory birds, declining species, and Federal- and State-listed threatened, endangered, and candidate species. The Service also gives special consideration to projects that:

  • are on permanently protected private lands;
  • are identified as high priority by State fish and wildlife agencies, Tribes, and other partners;
  • are located near National Wildlife Refuges;
  • reduce habitat fragmentation;
  • conserve or restore natural communities that the State Natural Heritage Programs or Heritage Data Bases have designated as globally or nationally imperiled;
  • are self-sustaining systems that are not dependent on artificial structures; and/or
  • help to educate the public on ecosystems and their species.

When other considerations are equal, priority may be given to projects that:

  • involve greater non-Service partnerships and/or cost-share contribution;
  • and/or are most cost effective (e.g., low cost/acre).

Back to top

10. If my land is not in a Focus Area should I still apply?

YES, we will always consider all well-qualified habitat restoration projects throughout the State, especially projects that can provide exceptional benefits for Federal trust species.

Back to top

11. Is my land suitable for habitat restoration or improvement?

Almost any land, whether it has been cropped, grazed, mined, or cleared, can be restored, or improved. Bioengineering techniques can restore streams and arroyo channels that are unstable. Some habitats can be protected simply by fencing to exclude human and/or livestock impacts and allow for natural restoration. Non-native plant species can be removed, and native vegetation can be planted. A walk around the property with a PFW biologist is the best way to determine a site’s restoration potential.

Back to top

12. What techniques can be used to restore or improve fish and wildlife habitat on my land?

Projects are designed to restore native habitat to as near a natural state as possible. Methods used in freshwater wetland restoration include creating shallow water areas where wetland plants can grow. Stream restoration may include fencing areas to protect streams and adjacent habitat, providing alternative water sources for livestock, and thus allowing natural revegetation of streamside habitat. Sometimes non-native vegetation is removed, and native vegetation planted to speed restoration. For some projects, stream restoration involves the use of bioengineering techniques to stabilize the stream by creating the proper stream dimension, pattern, and profile. Planting native seeds or plants, and/or changing land management practices may be necessary to restore native grasslands or woodlands in upland areas. Thinning trees may be needed to restore forest health and reduce the chances of catastrophic wildfires. Prescribed burns (planned, controlled, and managed fires) can be used to improve grassland and forest health. Removal of plants (native and non-native) that have encroached upon or displaced the native plants normally found on a site can also benefit wildlife.

Back to top

13. Will the Service help me build a stock pond on my property?

The Service will consider funding stock pond construction if it is specifically designed to benefit Federal trust species. Stock ponds generally are designed to maximize the amount of open water while minimizing the growth of cattails and other aquatic plants. Such ponds provide limited habitat for wetland wildlife.

Back to top

14. Will the Service help me build a wildlife pond on my property?

The PFW Program will assist with technical advice and will consider funding shallow, open-water wetland restorations that restore wetland wildlife habitat functions lost within a floodplain adjacent to a river or stream due to human-induced impacts. These projects must be cost effective, supported by ground water, and require little or no maintenance. In general, the PFW Program does not provide funding for the creation of ponds in upland areas.

Back to top

15. What other issues must I consider, or permits do I need when deciding to restore or enhance fish and/or wildlife habitat on my land?

A PFW biologist can help you determine what type of permits and clearances might be required for your potential project. If you receive funding from the PFW Program, you must obtain all required Federal, State, or local permits prior to beginning work on the project. The following are examples of habitat restoration work that require additional permits or authorizations.

  • Work in almost any wetland or stream channel, even an intermittent one, may require a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a Section 401 water quality certification from the State
  • In New Mexico, PFW projects that involve ground disturbance require an archaeology survey and clearance by the State Historic Preservation Office.

Back to top

16. When will the work  be started?

You must receive a final copy of your Private Lands Agreement or Cooperative Agreement signed by both you, the landowner (Cooperator/Recipient), and by the Service before you can begin work on the project. This is to prevent any unnecessary financial burdens on the landowner before funding is officially awarded by the Service. As described in the previous question and answer, you also must obtain any other necessary permits before beginning your project.

Back to top

17. When must work start and be completed?

Cooperators/Recipients are required to begin the project within 6 months of obtaining their signed agreement and complete the project within 18-24 months (as defined in the agreement) from the date of the Service’s signature on the agreement. The time can be extended for up to one year for justifiable delays by modifying the agreement.

Back to top

18. What kind of maintenance is required?

Most habitat improvement projects are designed to require little maintenance. This may include fence repairs, in-stream structure structure
Something temporarily or permanently constructed, built, or placed; and constructed of natural or manufactured parts including, but not limited to, a building, shed, cabin, porch, bridge, walkway, stair steps, sign, landing, platform, dock, rack, fence, telecommunication device, antennae, fish cleaning table, satellite dish/mount, or well head.

Learn more about structure
repairs, management of
livestock and human use of the project, and control of non-native plant species. The project maintenance is the responsibility of the Cooperator/Recipient for the term of the agreement.

Back to top

19. If I sign an agreement, do I have to allow public access to my land?

No. Restoring habitat with the PFW Program does not mean that you have to allow public access on your land. Service employees occasionally need access to the project area to check on its progress and monitor its success. We will contact you to arrange these visits.

Back to top

20. How do I apply to the PFW Program? Is there a deadline to submit project proposals?

All potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the local PFW Program staff prior to developing a proposal. Funding for projects is allocated once a year to the PFW Program, but project proposals may be submitted throughout the year. We are available to answer questions, discuss potential projects, provide technical assistance, visit your property, and help develop a complete project design for funding consideration. If you need additional information or have any questions, please contact us at the numbers listed above.

Back to top

21. Do I have to pay taxes on funds received through my agreement with USFWS PFW Program?

Generally, our agreements are considered pass-through funding which does not require taxes to be paid. However, we advise that each landowner discuss this with a qualified tax consultant.

Back to top