10 • AUGUST 2017
www.desertexposure.com Mimbres River at The Nature Conservancy’s Mimbres River Preserve. (Photo by Harold Malde)
Unusual volcanic tuff cliff within Mimbres and Gila Rivers watershed. (Photo by Alan Eckert)
Mimbres River Restoration Big machinery moves in to save small, critical species
uge machinery, backhoes, hard work and a lot of sweat are part of a massive Mimbres River restoration project designed to save an imperiled fish found nowhere else in the United States and a frog that’s near extinction.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and The Nature Conservancy have joined forces in this effort to rebuild a robust population of the Chihuahua chub and enhance the status of Chiricahua leopard frogs. The work is happening on The Nature Conser-
vancy’s Mimbres River Preserve in Grant County. “We’re seeing great success from a similar project along the Mimbres and are excited to partner with The Nature Conservancy on this section of the Mimbres River,” said Mike Ruhl of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. For various reasons, the river channel has lost habitat complexity over the last 130 years. This change has increased water velocity during heavy rains, and reduced safe habitat for fish and frogs. Aquatic species took another hit on their home in 2013, when the Silver Fire burned the upper Riparian forest of the Mimbres River in The Nature Conservancy’s Mimbres River Preserve. (Photo by Alan Eckert) Mimbres River Watershed. Directed by Game and Fish racing floodwaters with nowhere into the banks, deep pools form. and Nature Conservancy special- to go,” said Martha Cooper, The The fish need cool, slow-moving ists, heavy equipment was used Nature Conservancy’s Southwest water to survive and reproduce. to clear pools of sediment and add New Mexico field representa- This work will help meet those places where fish can find more tive. “This restoration project needs. protected low-velocity flows. will offer Chiricahua leopard Before the equipment moves in, Workers also used excavators and frogs much-needed safe refuge Nature Conservancy and Game backhoes to move dirt and place during high flows.” and Fish staff spent several days large cottonwood logs and boulAdditionally, strategically relocating Chihuahua chub and placed rocks and root balls from Chiricahua leopard frogs to ensure ders to improve habitat for native dead trees will encourage the riv- their safety during construction. fish and frogs. Imagine weighing two grams – er to meander, enhancing Chihua- Both populations will be restored less than a dime – in the face of hua chub habitat. As the river cuts once the project is complete.
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Prickly Poppy near Mimbres-Gila River headwaters. (Photo by Alan Eckert)
Cottonwood forest at The Nature Conservancy’s Mimbres River Preserve. (Photo by Harold Malde)