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What Does Wildlife Friendly Fence Mean?

I am standing in a pasture at 6:30 AM on a gorgeous cool, moist, July morning on the Taos Plateau with a small group of friends that are gearing up to work on fences for the day. The clear blue sky tells us it will get warm today but the moisture in the air and wispy clouds to the north bodes well for afternoon thunderstorms.

Today the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District (TSWCD), Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) greet volunteers from across the state who have come together to help re-construct fence to make big game migrations a little easier and save local ranchers some time in fence repair.

NMACD tells the group about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the wonderful grant funds received to enhance big game migration and critical winter use areas between San Antonio Mountain and the Taos Plateau. BLM shares how important the public lands are to ranchers, wildlife and recreationists. MDF talks about the regional importance of this area for mule deer, elk and pronghorn, emphasizing this is one of only 5 high elevation pronghorn herds in the Nation. TSWCD shares how important landowners are to the local economy and overall health of our forests, watersheds, streams and wildlife.

“So, what is a Wildlife Friendly Fence” asks a ready volunteer. The quick answer was “It is a 4-strand fence with a smooth wire on the bottom and 3 barbed wires above, but we will work through the how to’s when we get over to the fence”.

BLM explained how to re-construct the fence and divvied out wire, bolt cutters, fencing pliers, fence stretchers, buckets for clips and fence stays and measuring sticks to the volunteers. After completing the first 300 ft. of fence everyone got into a rhythm and naturally took on jobs they were comfortable with and helped wherever needed.

“Why do you put a smooth wire on the bottom of the fence 16” above the ground” asked another volunteer. That makes it easier for pronghorn antelope to move between pastures and across the landscape since they don’t jump fences like elk and mule deer but instead go under them.

“Why don’t pronghorn jump fences like mule deer and elk” is asked next? “We don’t really know other than they are genetically built that way”.

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Pronghorn Antelope

We make great headway during the day and take a break for lunch. As folks are walking back to the vehicles some of them had the opportunity to flush a ground nesting bird which they heard about earlier in the morning briefing and why this is one of the reasons not to drive vehicles off road.

While the lunch crowd was talking and sharing stories the question arose as to why there is a particular spacing of the 4 strands. A couple folks respond that the spacing is the best mix of keeping livestock in a pasture while allowing mule deer and elk to jump the fence easily and lessen the risk of tangling their hind hooves between the top two wires. This is particularly true for yearlings. Someone also says “don’t forget about the passage of pronghorn antelope under the smooth wire”.

After lunch we get back to it and watch the clouds gather for the afternoon. By 3:00 PM a dark cloud took aim and hit us with cold rain and temperature drops of 25 degrees sending us back to our host camp to snack and dry out. By 4:00 PM all is clear and the rain left us with an amazing earthy sweet aroma that cannot be described well in words. We were enticed to finish up our last leg of fence for the day and tie in with a ¼ mile fence panel.

We celebrated the completion of our first sections of fence reconstruction, making big game migrations a little easier, keeping the ranchers fences intact, the amazing rainfall and beauty of the New Mexico’s landscape and the opportunity to meet new people that can share with others what “Wildlife Friendly Fences” are.

Hope to see all of you and others for our next reconstruction!!!

ACEQUIA RCPP

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September 2021 Update

The 2016 Acequia RCPP has been completed and final report completed required of NMACD.  The amount expended was 99.9% of the $3 million provided.  We provided financial and technical assistance to 21 acequias.  Partners provided $14.6 million in leverage.

 

We have expended $491,843.42 out of $2.9 million on the 2018 Acequia RCPP.  Two projects have been completed to date:  Heredia Ditch at Mimbres (second phase) and La Joya at Soccoro.  Two projects are in construction at Canjilon.  Numerous projects are planned for fall construction.

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Ancient Traditions Keep Desert Waters Flowing. New Mexico's acequias—communal irrigation canals—still function as a tool to preserve and share scarce desert water. The acequias of New Mexico are communal irrigation canals, a way to share water for agriculture in a dry land.

New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) in cooperation with Interstate Stream Commission (ISC), New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), Taos Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Tierra Y Montes SWCD, East Rio Arriba SWCD, Upper Chama SWCD, Socorro SWCD, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have been and continue to provide acequias throughout the State an opportunity for financial and technical assistance.  The partners with NMACD as the lead have made available the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through an application process. RCPP was authorized through the Farm Bill to promote coordination between NRCS and partners to deliver conservation assistance to agricultural producers and landowners.

In 2015, NMACD was the only organization nationally piloting a unique approach in delivering conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NMACD rather than NRCS will be provided funds to deliver technical and financial assistance to acequias. An application and ranking process has been developed that resembles NRCS processes but will be managed by NMACD.

NMACD has successfully obtained funding through RCPP in 2016 and 2017 to continue providing Technical and Financial assistance throughout the State. The funding for 2015 has been expended but funds remain in the 2016 Program and the 2018 Program.

If you are interested in How To Apply, please click on the file at the bottom of this page.

2015 Acequia RCPP Program

2016 Acequia RCPP Program

ALTERNATIVE FUNDING ARRANGEMENTS

Alternative Funding Arrangements

PARTNERS MADE IT HAPPEN! New Mexico Acequia Revitalization on Historic Irrigated Lands (NMAR) - First in the nation to utilize “Alternative Funding Arrangement” with NRCS. Provided by USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, NMACD and nine partner organizations are working to significantly improve irrigation efficiency in the nearly 400-year-old systems.

FARM BILL PROGRAM

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

Farm Bill Program
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Technical Service Providers and DCBP Employees, NMACD Annual Conference, Albuquerque

(Back, L to R) Ariel Fury, Margaritte Vigil, Ashley Baumgartner, Lanelle Hopson, Kenzee Criswell, Jamie Samples, Gwen Martinez, Vicki Ligon, Debbie Hughes, Troy Hood;

(2nd Row) Nadine Lucero, Isabelle Francisco; (Front Row) Carl Nolan, Beatrice Groven

(Picture is from November 2022.)

For a current list of Farm Bill and District Capacity Employees, see the NMACD Directory, p. 62-63.

September 2023

The New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) manages a Technical Service Provider Program (TSP) in New Mexico to provide services authorized under the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Farm Bill Programs. NMACD administers this Program in cooperation with the following entities:  USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA), New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Commission, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD’s) in New Mexico.  Funding is provided by the NRCS and the State of New Mexico.

The TSP Program was begun in July 2003 by NMACD and consists of three components:

1. An employee program under which NMACD employs technical service providers (Farm Bill Program Employees) who provide program and technical assistance to help NRCS and SWCD’s carry out the Farm Bill Programs. NMACD employs an average of 12-15 employees in New Mexico who are assigned to local NRCS field offices in cooperation with SWCDs.

2. The District Capacity Building Program functions under agreements between NMACD and participating SWCD’s.  Under this program, the participating SWCD employs and supervises a Farm Bill Program Employee who works part time for the SWCD and part time for the local NRCS Field Office. NMACD reimburses the SWCD for the time for which the employee works for NRCS. There are currently five SWCDs participating in this program, employing four employees.

3. The use of "on-demand" specialists are self-employed individuals who provide special technical assistance on an as-needed basis. These specialists provide technical assistance to meet workload needs for NRCS and other Conservation Agencies. Over twenty professional conservationists, eight professional archaeologists, and a number of other professional individuals work under agreements with NMACD to provide assistance for natural resources conservation programs. For information concerning the NMACD’s Farm Bill Technical Service Provider Program, contact:

Troy Hood, NMACD TSP Administrative Coordinator

1102 Villa Rd. SE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124

(505)280-8102 (c); Troy.Hood@q.com

Canadian River

CANADIAN RIVER RIPARIAN 

RESTORATION PROJECT

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The Canadian River Riparian Restoration Project (CRRRP) is a collaboration of eight Soil and Water Conservation Districts in northeastern New Mexico. The CRRRP's goal is to restore the Watershed of the Canadian River, both on the main stem and on its tributaries, to a healthy productive state that will provide native habitat for a variety of wildlife and improve water for communities, agriculture and recreation throughout the course of the watershed. This project is a multi-phase, multi-year, multi-partnered watershed-scale effort using a headwaters down approach on over 2000 miles of river corridor.

CRRRP restoration efforts include:

  • Treatment of nonnative invasive species

  • Mastication of standing dead invasives

  • Hand treatment

  • Riparian fencing where necessary

  • Maintenance of areas previously treated, and

  • Removal of additional invasive species.

The funding of this project comes through a variety of local, state and federal grants. Its success is due to the many partners it has been able to involve.

The Canadian River Riparian Restoration Project is managed by Jack Chatfield, P.O. Box 226, Mosquero, NM 87733, Email: jackc@plateautel.net, Phone: 575-673-2320.

Please click on the file to the left for just a few of our excellent results.

Regional Conservation

OGALLALA REGIONAL CONSERVATION 

PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM

News Release provided by Dr. Ladona K. Clayton, Executive Director

Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy

5015 N. Prince St., Suite A

Clovis, NM 88101

575-760-3098

Email: 

ladona.clayton@ogalwc.org

NMACD 2553 NEW MEXICO OGALLALA PRESERVATION AND CONSERVATION RCPP

 

In 2021, the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) applied for and was awarded $6,911,311 for their 2553 New Mexico Ogallala Preservation and Conservation RCPP classic project, which seeks to implement three key natural resources management actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change, improve water security, and preserve the land and its habitats. The priority action for natural resources management is to increase water resilience by protecting at least 80% of the groundwater remaining in the paleochannel northwest of Cannon Air Force Base (CAFB) using conservation easements, while transitioning irrigated farmland and pastureland to dryland cropping or grazing land. Accomplishing this goal significantly benefits Curry County, the City of Clovis, and CAFB. 

 

Aquifer decline is a looming issue for every farmer, rancher, and community dependent on the Ogallala Aquifer from Texas to North Dakota, and the effort around Clovis/Curry County will be one of the first to use conservation easements to conserve groundwater. Our hope is that this project could serve as a model for extending the life of the Ogallala Aquifer for other states and communities.

 

The NMACD Ogallala RCPP funding award includes $1,768,610 for land management and $3,411,418 for perpetual conservation easements. Given that acquiring easements is a multi year process with even the best of conditions an immediate solution needed to be implemented. The Aquifer, which provides the sole source of water for area communities, was rapidly depleting with estimates of less than 10 years of groundwater remaining in the target area due to agricultural demands.

 

The DOD/USAF Readiness and Environmental Protection Intervention (REPI) Program and the Office of the State (OSE) Engineer, key partners of the NMACD Ogallala RCPP, moved quickly to fund short-term, 3-year Water Right Lease Agreements to pay farmers residing in the paleochannel to immediately cease pivot irrigation by June 2022.  Farmers in cooperation with NRCS staff determined annual gallons per minute of water production for a total of 53 wells. Central Curry Soil & Water Conservation District and the Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy collaborated with CAFB-REPI and OSE personnel to execute the Agreements for the ten highest producing irrigation farmers. In year one alone, this action resulted in an initial savings of 7,559 GPM of groundwater or 3,973,010,400 gallons of water. The total cost for the 3-year Water Right Lease Agreements, paid annually in June, exceeds $6 million.

 

In late 2023, the NMACD ‘s Ogallala RCPP began working with their partners to place 8,140 acres of irrigated land in perpetual conservation easements, leaving up to 20% of available groundwater for livestock and domestic use and conserving 80% of the groundwater remaining in this segment of the Ogallala Aquifer.  At current rates of consumption, this will create at least a 40-year supplemental water supply to support domestic water needs by securing remaining groundwater resources.  In addition, farmers will implement effective land management practices, protecting terrestrial habitats, and restoring and managing at least 20 playa wetlands that improve water quality, provide water resources to prairie species, and contribute to the recharge of the Ogallala Aquifer. These goals should be fully implemented by 2027. REPI Program funds, combined with other funding sources will more than match awarded Ogallala RCPP funds for conservation easement acquisition.

 

Currently envisioned local water management strategies plan for use of up to 20% of the conserved groundwater secured in the paleochannel to eventually serve as a supplemental water supply for the Ute Reservoir pipeline during times of extreme drought. The surface water from Ute Reservoir and the banked groundwater will be transported via a pipeline to support the survival of area communities. The Ute pipeline infrastructure has currently not been completed and is scheduled to come online in 2031.

 

Implementing the 2553 New Mexico Ogallala Preservation and Conservation RCPP classic project, when combined with partnering awards provided by REPI and the OSE, will go a long way to mitigate the impacts of climate change, improve water security, and preserve the land and its habitats.

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The Building Resiliency in the San Juan-Rio Chama Region project, managed by East Rio Arriba Soil and Water Conservation District and twenty partners, complements recent diversion structures with additional forest health and watershed treatments to increase the resiliency of the landscape to withstand stressors such as drought, wildfire and climate change in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

Completed by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1976, the San Juan-Rio Chama Diversion is a series of diversion structures and tunnels that together carry runoff 26 miles across the Continental Divide from the Colorado River watershed to the Rio Chama, in the Rio Grande watershed. This diversion, along with the Rio Chama, provides approximately one third of New Mexico’s water supply for irrigators, agriculture, industry, communities and fish and wildlife.

Between 2017 and 2021, partners in the San Juan–Rio Chama region of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico will complete 1,000 – 1,500 acres of watershed resiliency treatments per year utilizing $6.4 million of Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and the Agricultural Easement Program.

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East Rio Arriba SWCD Board

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East Rio Arriba SWCD Staff

This project was granted $3.2 million. The East Rio Arriba SWCD is the only local conservation district proposal in the entire US to be authorized the use of an “Alternative Funding Arrangement.” They have had a Partner-leveraged contribution of $13.4 million. The East Rio Arriba SWCD also applied to and received from the Water Trust Board a $1 million grant. The application parallels the RCPP, and the contract was signed in May 2019.

NM Restoration Initiative

NEW MEXICO RESTORATION

INITIATIVE

Updated September 2023

The NMACD Restoration Initiative is in its 19th year. The purpose of the initiative is to address invasive species on range and woodland on private, state, and federals lands in New Mexico. NMACD has been coordinating funding from the NRCS-EQIP program and the BLM-Restore New Mexico programs to provide funds to ranchers for addressing invasive brush species. Over 170 Coordinated Resource Management Plans (CRMP) have been developed and funded. In addition, there have been 78 watershed/landscape scale treatments carried out by 13 Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

A new agreement with the US Forest Service is the start of coordinated efforts with the Forest Service and ranchers with forest permits. The agreement calls for NMACD to work with the Forest Supervisors and District Rangers to develop coordinated plans with ranchers. Ranchers can then use the CRMPs to apply for EQIP funds with the NRCS.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was introduced in the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill made RCPP a standalone program. NMACD was approved for $4 million in 2015 for NRCS to fund ranchers for conservation work on their ranches that include Federal Lands. NMACD also applied for RCPP funding in 2017 and currently there is $5 million available for NRCS to fund ranchers for conservation work on their ranches that include Federal Lands.

The goal in all of this work is to improve the range and forest lands in New Mexico. This is being accomplished through reducing brush invasion and implementing supporting practices such as fencing, water development, and erosion control.

 

NMACD has held a financial assistance agreement with the BLM since 2005.  These agreements are in place to assist the BLM with implementation of their Restore NM Program.  Currently, we are completing our fourth assistance agreement, which will expire September 30, 2023.  To date approximately 18 million dollars has passed through these agreements for restoration of natural resources.  The majority of the restoration work has been completed with the assistance of seven Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

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