Riparian Habitat Restoration:  Tularosa River, New Mexico

Reprinted from The National Fish Habitat Partnership

Purpose of the project:
This multi-phased project aims to enhance 5.5 miles of riparian habitat and facilitate watershed and riparian restoration along the Tularosa River in New Mexico. This watershed provides habitat for a suite of native species, including Loach minnow (federally Endangered, New Mexico Species of Greatest Conservation Need(NMSGCN)), Sonora Sucker (Regional Forester Sensitive Species (RFSS), NMSGCN), Desert Sucker (RFSS, NMSGCN), Longfin dace, Speckled dace, Narrow-headed garter snake (federally Threatened, RFSS, NMSGCN), Arizona toad (RFSS, NMSGCN), Common Blackhawk (RFSS, NMSGCN), and Chiricahua leopard frog (federally Threatened, RFSS, NMSGCN).

Much of the Tularosa River is already excluded from unauthorized cattle grazing except at approved water access points. However, additional exclusion fencing is needed to completely eliminate livestock access. Additionally, the area has a history of unauthorized motorized ATV/UTV use that installing fencing will also solve. To compensate for the loss of access to the river, a solar well will be installed to provide a non-potable water source to wildlife and livestock. This well, in conjunction with the riparian fencing, will eliminate the need for livestock to enter the perennial Tularosa River at approved water access points where currently riparian vegetation is trampled and there is an excessive input of nutrients/waste. This will restore vegetation within the riparian area thus reducing siltation and improve cover and water temperature within the river. This ultimately results in improved habitat quality for native fish and other riparian species.

Human Interest/Community Benefit:
The Tularosa River Restoration and Protection project is located in the Gila National Forest. Year-round recreation abounds in the forested hills, mountains, and rangeland of the Gila National Forest from hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and more. Within the Gila National Forest are three Wilderness areas, including the Gila Wilderness, which was designated as the world’s first Wilderness in 1924.

This project is part of a larger riparian restoration project along the Tularosa River in Catron County, NM. The Catron County Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) students have been assisting with the installation of fences and will continue to help in the future with riparian willow planting. The YCC students have learned why the project was being implemented and the benefits to motor vehicle compliance, livestock grazing on Forest Service lands, and riparian species and habitat protection.

Once this project is complete, it will be submitted to the Forest Service Regional Office as a Show and Shine project that will highlight activities and accomplishments and can be distributed to the public and members of Congress as a success story.

Project Timeline:
Phase I of this project which included initial fence installation was completed in September 2019. Phase II which includes well installation and the remainder of fencing is scheduled to be completed by September 2020.

This project was funded and supported by the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership, the U.S. Forest Service, Deep Canyon Allotment permittees and ranch managers, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, New Mexico Environment Department, and the New Mexico Water Trust board. Future partners to be included are Trout Unlimited, San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Reserve School to help implement riparian planting.