Habitat Restoration Projects

The Southwest Environmental Center is actively involved in restoring riparian and aquatic habitats along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico and west Texas. Our vision is to create “a string of pearls” of restored and protected habitats up and down this reach.

SWEC led the effort to create the Picacho Wetlands (above) and the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park.

La Mancha Wetland

The La Mancha Wetland project is located on three acres of land owned by the Southwest Environmental Center and adjacent federal land along the Rio Grande near Mesilla, NM. When completed, it will consist of ponds that are connected to the river, simulating a side channel of the river, and creating year-round backwater habitat that is extremely important as fish spawning, nursery and feeding grounds. This type of slow-water habitat has largely been eliminated from the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico and west Texas. We expect to complete the project in 2011. Read the La Mancha Wetland Design and Analysis Report.

Read a project update here. And another one here.

Partners in this project include the Alma d”Arte High School, NMSU’s Scientifically Connected Communities, and NMSU’s Department of Wildlife and Fishery Sciences. We have received two grants for the La Mancha Project under the New Mexico River Ecological Restoration Initiative.

Picacho Wetland

The Picacho Wetland project was constructed by the Southwest Environmental Center, the City of Las Cruces, and other partners in 2002-2003 on a 55-acre tract of land managed by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish near the Town of Mesilla in Dona Ana County. The project has restored several types of habitats that were once common along the Rio Grande but are now rare. A deep 3-acre pond was excavated to a depth of 8 feet and provides year-round aquatic habitat for fish, frogs and beavers. An adjoining 2-acre shallow pond fills when flows in the river are high, thus functioning as a seasonally-flooded meadow. The ponds are connected to each other by a buried culvert, and to the river by an irrigation drainage ditch. Native trees, shrubs, rushes, sedges and grasses were planted around the ponds, and approximately 20 acres of non-native salt cedar trees were removed and replaced with native plant species.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park

The Southwest Environmental Center led the campaign to protect this important natural area along the Rio Grande near the Town of Mesilla in Dona Ana County. What began as the Picacho Wetland project expanded to become a proposal to create a 1000-acre nature park. Our efforts paid off when the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park was established in 2004. The park provides outstanding opportunities for nature enjoyment and education.