June 4 Volunteer Project: Cebolla Restoration

Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman

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Willow planting on the Cebolla

New Mexico Trout conservation volunteers worked hard and accomplished a lot earlier this month on a series of projects on the Rio Cebolla along Forest Road 376. As is customary, the first work project of the season also featured a barbeque lunch for all the volunteers. Our work was guided by Phyllis Martinez, a ranger with the Jemez District, and Cecil Rich, fisheries biologist with the Santa Fe National Forest.

We had a good turnout, with enough volunteers to tackle three separate tasks. The first task, which was directed by Cecil Rich, was to plant willow cuttings along the stream banks inside the smallest of the Rio Cebolla meadow jumping mouse exclosures. Cecil and forest service staff had collected the cuttings back in March and stored them in Jemez  Creek near the District Office until the work date. The planting technique is to punch a hole with a digging bar near the water’s edge down to wet soil, drop the willow cutting down the hole, and then tamp the soil around the cutting. Willows have a strong tendency to root if the cut surfaces are kept moist and many of the cuttings had already rooted while they were being stored in Jemez Creek. Restrictions on disturbing meadow jumping mouse habitat required the usual willow planting technique to be modified so that volunteers had to remain in the stream as they planted the willows.

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Building vehicle barriers

The second task was located about a mile south of the willow planting in an area along the Cebolla that is very heavily used by campers and that has been seriously degraded by trespass vehicles. Phyllis Martinez wanted our help to extend and reinforce previously placed barriers so that the Forest Service could begin to rehabilitate the denuded and eroding creek banks. John Rose brought his tractor to the work site equipped with a post hole attachment and a front end loader. That tractor was a real force multiplier. John was able to drill post holes for all the available bollards and then he used the front end loader to bring many big boulders to place along the barrier line. We are all grateful to John for bringing the tractor and allowing us to accomplish so much.

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Restoring vegetation

The third task was to close off an informal two track road off FR 376 about a mile north of Porter’s Landing. The road provided access to a big bare campsite on the west bank of the Cebolla that Phyllis Martinez wanted to reseed, rest, and allow the area to recover. Ashes and charcoal from a huge fire ring on the bank had been pushed down into the creek, compounding the damage from the general overuse. Following Phyllis’ instructions, we in the third group drove T-posts and strung a four- wire fence across the entry point to block vehicle access. We also removed the fire ring and bagged up the ashes and charcoal for removal.

We broke at noon for a lunch of barbeque from Rudy’s in Albuquerque. The lunch was tasty and ample and the view down the grassy valley was peaceful and serene. Thanks to all the volunteers for their help.

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Enjoing the Rio Cebolla