Bosque work east of Socorro to begin

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Starting in February, forestry division inmate crews from Los Lunas will be working on the “ribbon” east of town — the forested area between the low flow channel and the drain on the west side of the river.

The project will begin with the stretch between Otero Road and Hope Farms Road, and continue through late summer as crews work other sections between Escondida Lake and Brown Arroyo. Using chain saws, the crews will be removing deadwood and non-native trees between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Firewood three inches in diameter and larger will be available to the public. A free firewood gathering permit is required before any wood can be removed; the permit can be obtained from the New Mexico Forestry office on Highway 60 behind the Ark of Socorro Veterinary clinic.

County and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation workers will mulch the slash and deliver it to the New Mexico Tech community garden.

The crews will be removing tamarisk (salt cedar) and Russian olive, as well as downed and dead material, including “a lot of dangerous cottonwood snags,” said Save Our Bosque Task Force President Doug Boykin. Salt cedar and Russian olive stumps will be treated with herbicide.

The work is being funded by a Wildlands-Urban Interface grant administered by the SOBTF, a non-profit grass-roots organization dedicated to preserving riparian habitats along the Rio Grande in Socorro County. The grant is designed to reduce fire risk in neighborhoods bordering forests and grasslands.

“With Wildland-urban interface funds, we can treat the ribbons, because there are some homes on the west side of the drain that could be impacted by a bosque fire,” Boykin said.

Cleaning out the bosque should reduce illegal dumping.

“Because the brush won’t be as thick, it’ll be easier to see people dumping trash,” he said. “It’s so thick (right now), people can drive in there, dump their trash, and just drive out the other way.”

The inmate crews are trained to do bosque-restoration work, and have worked on projects between Cochiti Dam and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge during the past 10 to 15 years, he said.

“They’re all minimum security inmates from Los Lunas,” Boykin said. “They come with corrections officers as well as forestry division crew leaders.”

For more information about firewood permits and the project, call the N.M. Forestry Office in Socorro, 575-835-9359.