Restoration work starts on wetland conservation land near Bosquecito

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The mass planting this spring is another phase in the project, which is designed to create a native species habitat corridor along the Rio Grande flood plain.

Karen Bailey-Bowman/El Defensor Chieftain: Save Our Bosque Task Force president and State Forestry Division forester Doug Boykin carries recently clipped coyote willow saplings at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The saplings will be planted at the Rhodes Ranch restoration project north of Bosquecito this spring.

Socorro Soil Water Conservation District manager and SOBTF member Nyleen Stowe expects the team of volunteers and government employees to finish cutting the willows in two to three days.

After fencing has been erected to keep livestock away from the restoration area along the riverbank, contractor Darrel Reasner and his crew will insert the 3,005 willow whips into two-foot holes and push them down another two feet to reach the water table, and plant 150 containerized native shrubs in hand-dug holes.

The cut ends of the willows will sprout within weeks, eventually providing a brushy shelter for the endangered willow flycatchers that inhabit the invasive non-native salt cedars the task force has been eradicating on the ranch’s floodplain property.

The Rhodes Ranch project is being implemented by the Save Our Bosque Task Force with funding from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the New Mexico state Legislature and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Restoration work began in 2003 and is ongoing. The family of the late state Sen. Virgil Rhodes created a conservation easement on the flood plain location last year to protect fragile riparian habitat for future generations.

According to SOBTF president and New Mexico Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department forester Doug Boykin, the task force has been awarded over $1.5 million in funding for the project to date.

The Save Our Bosque Task Force is a nonprofit corporation formed in 1994 composed of a coalition of volunteers and government agencies whose mission is to preserve the riparian habitat along the Rio Grande in Socorro County for the benefit of native species and the people of the valley.