Land and Water
Each of our work sites is designed to implement our founding principles
We offer a suite of wetland and rangeland monitoring and restoration services for southwestern working lands.
We leverage knowledge and experience garnered from our long-term partnerships as the basis for providing climate-smart conservation services to land managers and make this information widely available to the public.
We aim to educate volunteer participants in the ways of healing the ground and carrying forward this knowledge.
Since 2001, the Quivira Land and Water Program has played a significant role in reversing the cycle of degradation in the Comanche Creek Watershed. Quivira serves as the organizer for the Comanche Creek Working Group (the watershed association), secures funding to be used for educational workshops and on-the-ground restoration projects, and serves as the project manager for these large-scale restoration projects including coordination of machine-build projects as well as annual volunteer work weekends.
As over-seer of this large-scale effort, Quivira facilitates partnerships with many dedicated and diverse groups including:
- The Carson National Forest – Questa Ranger District
- Rocky Mountain Youth Corps
- New Mexico Trout
- Trout Unlimited
- Albuquerque Wildlife Federation
- Taos Soil and Water Conservation District
- United States Fish and Wildlife Service
- New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau Wetlands Program
- Boy Scout Troop 189
- Philmont Scout Ranch
- as well as many talented restoration contractors, and dedicated volunteers.
Through the efforts of all these people, Comanche Creek restoration was showcased as an EPA Success story.
Every August Quivira organizes a volunteer work weekend in the Comanche Creek Watershed with 40-60 volunteers getting dirty in the creek, building community, and learning about watershed restoration. In additional to Quivira staff, we have representatives of the Forest Service and National Resource Conservation Service, ecological design professionals, and citizens of all ages and backgrounds, who love being on the land.
We’ve accomplished much and experienced great success in the Comanche Creek Watershed, yet there are many more miles of creek and acres of wetland to bring back to health. To support continued progress, and in-line with our principle of innovation, Quivira has supported The Wetland Action Plan for the Comanche Creek Watershed (authored by the Comanche Creek Working Group and funded by New Mexico Environment Department SWQB Wetlands Program) which is an important component of the planning process that informs future restoration work. A technical paper: Slope Wetlands Bulletin written by Bill Zeedyk and the Quivira Coalition with funds from New Mexico Environment Department SWQB Wetlands Program describes the conditions in the watershed and the techniques used to stabilize and restore these headwater wetland systems, as well as guide future restoration efforts in this and similar habitats.
Quivira is dedicated to continue to work with trout fishers, cattle herders, environmentalists, scientists, community stakeholders, and volunteers to continue the important work of stabilization and restoration of this iconic watershed.
The Comanche Creek Watershed area was inhabited and stewarded by the Jicarilla Apache and others before them. Colonization of the area by the Spaniards in the 1500s brought more inhabitants to the area and different land usage patterns including the employ of more than 500 people cultivating many acres and running large herds of sheep and cattle. Mining was also a common activity in the watershed after gold was discovered in the late 1800s within the Maxwell Land Grant and large scale logging efforts continued as recently as the 1980s.
Comanche Creek is a part of The Valle Vidal, which has had many owners, all who primarily leased the land for grazing as well as used the land as a private hunting reserve. In 1973 the land was acquired by the Pennzoil Corporation, and then, in 1982, was donated to the United States Forest Service by Pennzoil in exchange for renunciation of a tax debt (Valle Vidal Deed, 1982).
The United States Forest Service inherited a landscape that was impacted by the heavy uses of the past. These legacy impacts included the effects of timber harvesting and subsequent construction of logging roads, mining, and livestock overgrazing – resulting in a watershed that was in a cycle of active degradation. This historical use contributed to a significant amount of soil erosion, increase in sediment load in the streams, increases in stream water temperature, and overall degradation of the riparian and wetland ecosystems.
When the U.S. Forest Service gained ownership of the Valle Vidal, and within it, the Comanche Creek Watershed, there was much to do to improve conditions and reverse the impacts of the legacy land uses. The US Forest Service implemented considerable restoration activities, including the reduction of livestock numbers from 2,500 to less than 1,000 and a shift from season-long to rotational grazing in pasture systems. Grazing management, logging road closures, and improved road drainage all had a considerable positive impact in the watershed.
Red Canyon Reserve
Red Canyon is a rangeland property near Magdalena, New Mexico owed by Quivira and operated as a land-based laboratory for innovative restoration techniques for an arid environment.
When we first encountered the land, it was generally in poor health with ailments typical of many small parcels of land in the arid Southwest. The problems included: sparse grass cover and low plant diversity due to poor livestock management practices; numerous deep gullies and erosion channels caused by flash flooding, made worse by the lack of vegetation and poorly designed roads; and poorly maintained fences and other infrastructure.
In order to implement solutions, we designed a management plan with a strategy for restoring land health over several years. The plan involved comprehensive monitoring, various inventories and surveys, a planned grazing program, restoration workshops, careful repair and closure of roads, and a series of steps taken to enhance the habitat for livestock, wildlife, and vegetation.
Today, we can call this effort a success. The recovery of the plants has been spectacular. The arroyos are healing. The redesigned roads don’t dry up or erode the adjacent grasslands. We regularly see not only deer and antelope, but mountain lions, javelinas, coyotes, bats, falcons, and eagles. And we have plans to reintroduce and support some species that had been forced to move elsewhere. The land is healthier and more valuable for wildlife, livestock, and humans.
We believe that other owners of small land parcels can learn from our experience at the Red Canyon reserve, including the challenge of paying for the restoration work. All the techniques and methodologies that we tried can be implemented in other places. Here are some of the results to our work:
A plan for managing land in a economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable manner serving as a model for collaborative resource management and encouraging scientific inquiry.
A baseline study to be used as both a planning and education tool.
A project description for improved breeding and winter habitat for a diverse group of State listed and sensitive wildlife species through enhancement of riparian wetlands and increased distribution of existing water sources.
In early 2002, Quivira received a 320-acre tract of land in the eastern foothills of the San Mateo Mountains, south of Socorro, New Mexico. It was a surprise gift from the estate of Michael Belshaw, a former economics professor who had retired to the property. The land was bequeathed to Quivira with the stipulation that it be “devoted to activities directed toward the preservation of the land and the wildlife, including, but not limited to, a wildlife refuge, research station, study retreat, or a demonstration ranch.”
The majestic Red Canyon bisects the property as it runs eastward from the flanks of the San Mateo Mountains toward the Rio Grande. Sierra Blanca Peak is visible through Mockingbird Gap in the Oscura Range. Large mammals and many species of birds use the property. There is also evidence of use by Native Americans, including several archaeological sites, historic campsites and structures, and rock art along canyon walls.
Since 1997, Quivira has worked on dozens of innovative and successful projects to build soil and resilience on western working lands.
Since 1997, Quivira has worked on dozens of innovative and successful projects to build soil and resilience on western working lands. Largo CreekIn 2001 The Quivira Coalition began working with a Catron County rancher, at his request, and the U.S. Forest Service to...read more
Since 1997, Quivira has worked on hundreds of innovative and successful projects to build soil and resilience on western working lands. Dry Cimmaron This educational and collaborative demonstration project with the Rainbow Ranch section of the Dry Cimarron, centers on...read more
Since 1997, Quivira has worked on hundreds of innovative and successful projects to build soil and resilience on western working lands. Cedro Creek This project involves restoration work along Cedro Creek in the Cibola National Forest, in the Sandia Mountains, with...read more
Since 1997, Quivira has worked on hundreds of innovative and successful projects to build soil and resilience on western working lands. Mesteño Draw Ranch The Mesteño Draw Ranch, established in 1991 by Joan Bybee, is located 7 miles north of Mountainair, New Mexico...read more
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