Three nonprofit conservation-focused organizations located in the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas are partnering on a watershed enhancement project with an emphasis on landowner participation. The Borderlands Research Institute, Rio Grande Joint Venture and Dixon Water Foundation are teaming up to roll out the Alamito Creek Conservation Initiative.
This new initiative will provide the capacity to partner with landowners to implement restoration and enhancement projects within a portion of Alamito Creek in Presidio County, as well as associated tributaries and uplands. The project will utilize outreach and education efforts to broaden the impact throughout the Trans-Pecos region.
“The Alamito Creek Conservation Initiative is an excellent example of how conservation partners can work together with local land stewards to further shared conservation goals, enhance rangeland sustainability, and create vital wildlife habitat,” said Billy Tarrant, associate director of Stewardship Services at Borderlands Research Institute. “We’re looking forward to working with landowners to enhance habitat in the critical Alamito Creek watershed.”
Through funding provided by the Dixon Water Foundation and Horizon Foundation, the Alamito Creek Conservation Initiative will utilize existing cost share programs to carry out voluntary incentive-based conservation projects. The goal is to implement enhancement techniques in a portion of the creek that still has some functionality and then to expand to other tributaries and upland sites.
Historical accounts of watersheds across the arid Chihuahuan Desert landscape indicate many had more perennial streams and were lined with gallery forests of cottonwood and willow. Past land use activities led to deforestation along many Chihuahuan Desert streams. Once the riparian forests were gone, normal annual flood flows scoured young plants and prevented recolonization by trees. Today, summer thunderstorms and the resulting runoff are no longer absorbed by the riparian floodplains and adjacent uplands, resulting in less recharge to aquifers, greater erosion and downcutting of stream bottoms, and less desirable vegetation communities. Well-developed and vegetated floodplains can absorb and store annual flood flows, resulting in wetter watersheds, and healthier riparian and wetland communities for wildlife and livestock.
Riparian enhancement efforts will utilize low-tech process-based restoration techniques. These practices use simple structural additions to mimic riparian functions and initiate specific processes. Management of invasive brush and placement of brush weir dams will slow floods and promote recovery. “We have been using these process-based techniques for riparian restoration for the past three years in West Texas,” said Jeff Bennett, the Rio Grande Joint Venture’s habitat restoration hydrologist. “Initial monitoring has shown the bed of one creek has been built up by one foot in two years’ time.”
The Borderlands Research Institute will manage administration and coordination responsibilities and will develop a strategic restoration and monitoring program. The Rio Grande Joint Venture will focus on implementation and monitoring of conservation projects.
The Alamito Creek Conservation Initiative seeks to address problems associated with historical riparian forest loss by improving overall riparian health through its riparian and grassland enhancement projects.