The Restore New Mexico Collaborative Monitoring Program: The action and the science

TitleThe Restore New Mexico Collaborative Monitoring Program: The action and the science
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsLister L, Bestelmeyer BT
Conference Name72nd Society for Range Management International Meeting
Date Published02/2019
PublisherSociety for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Conference LocationMinneapolis, Minnesota
ARIS Log Number361624

Restoration treatments to reduce shrub cover and increase grass cover have a long history in the Chihuahuan Desert region of southwest New Mexico. Brush management treatments on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land became common in the 1980s, but with very little monitoring to evaluate restoration outcomes. The Restore New Mexico program was initiated in 2005 to accelerate brush management and other restoration applications through a partnership of the BLM, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and wildlife-oriented non-governmental organizations. There was also increased interest in monitoring to: 1) estimate the effects of brush management treatments on vegetation; 2) identify environmental factors explaining variations in treatment outcomes; and 3) determine which brush management treatments are not performing as expected and identify strategies to maximize future benefits (adaptive management). BLM staff reached out to the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range in 2006 for assistance with tools to design restoration treatments based on existing knowledge (ecological site descriptions and mapping) and to embed monitoring experiments featuring paired treated and untreated plots within treatment areas. From 5-10 years of monitoring data have been analyzed in 39 areas spanning millions of acres. Analyses and interpretations were initially developed with BLM and presented and refined with a broader coordination group. Care was taken to allow explanations for trends to emerge from the group setting, rather than to present them outright. The data provided a complicated “report card” on restoration practices – confirming some hypotheses, finding little support for others, and raising new questions. We will discuss how these scientific interpretations will be used in the management of past restoration investments and the development of future restoration efforts.