New Mexico
Environment Department

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Surface Water Quality

Wetlands Projects

In 2003, the SWQB Wetlands Program began the development of a wetland restoration program (Wetlands Action Plan Program), which is part of a larger mission to improve and protect the state’s watersheds and water quality. Over the years projects funded by the Wetland Program have identified, protected and restored vulnerable wetlands throughout the state.

Some of the Ongoing and Completed Projects include but are not limited to:

– Conducting State-Wide Mapping and Classification Efforts to identify all wetland areas throughout the state.

– Developing Rapid Assessment Methods for multiple types of wetlands.
– Created Wetland Action Plans that lay out strategic planning for the restoration of vulnerable wetlands, and lay the ground for a watershed-wide restoration plan.
– Holding two Wetlands Roundtables per year to include a Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to share wetland information, facilitate restoration, and identify NGO issues and needs. The NGO Wetlands Roundtable meets semiannually and hold sessions in both northern and southern New Mexico.

For further information on the many ongoing projects of the Wetlands Program see the following EPA Presentation by Maryann McGraw.


Final Reports for Wetlands Projects

Fire and Water: The Interplay between Wetlands and Fire Management Mapping and Classification for Wetlands Protection, Sacremento Mountains Region, New Mexico (2019)
The goal of this project was to map and identify priority wetland resources for protection and restoration in the Sacramento Mountains and develop a landscape level functional assessment model. In addition, from the mapping exercise, a method was developed for identifying wetlands water quality classified segments for future wetlands standards development.



Inventory and Rapid Assessment of Southern New Mexico Springs (2019)

This Project is a continuation of the development of wetlands rapid assessment methods geared towards New Mexico arid land wetlands with a focus on springs within EPA Ecoregion 23 (Arizona and New Mexico mountains) in southwestern New Mexico. New Mexico Rapid Assessment Method (NMRAM) metric development data and floristic quality data were collected from spring locations principally in Grant and Catron counties in 2018.

The Project was designed to expand rapid assessment methods for New Mexico springs. Springs have long been identified on topographic maps but are not well characterized as far as basic attributes much less condition. And, considering that all wetland types in New Mexico, including springs, are considered “waters of the state” (20.6.4 NMAC) and subject to both water quality protection and regulations, the Surface Water Quality Bureau recognized the need to have both a preliminary inventory of springs and develop a framework to assess their condition. The rapid assessment metrics that were developed evolved from a handful of existing spring rapid assessment protocols but were tailored to the specific needs of the project. For example, most existing spring assessment protocols rely heavily on biological species richness metrics which require advanced education and training in entomology and botany. However, species richness in spring ecosystems is typically a function of spring type and how geomorphologically intact the spring is. By developing metrics to quantify aquifer functionality and geomorphic process, some of the biological indicators became simplified and were more rapidly applied. This project also pioneered a new way of considering condition ‘stressors’ from being merely a footprint of degradation, to include them as part of the processes that impairs condition and are therefore included in the overall condition scoring process.


New Mexico Rapid Assessment Method for the Canadian, and Developing Designated Uses for Montane Riverine Wetlands in New Mexico (2019)

This Project is a continuation of the development of wetlands rapid assessment methods for New Mexico semi-arid land wetlands with a focus on Montane Riverine Wetlands of the Canadian River Basin and Dry Cimarron Watershed in northeastern New Mexico. New Mexico Rapid Assessment Method (NMRAM) metric development data and floristic quality data were collected from 40 montane riverine wetland sites principally in Colfax and Mora Counties, New Mexico in 2016 (36) and 2017 (4). Testing of the 14 selected metrics for NMRAM Montane Riverine Wetlands was also conducted at the 40 Montane Riverine Wetlands Sample Areas (SA) to ensure metric sensitivity and applicability in a rapid assessment scenario. The Project refined metrics for NMRAM Montane Riverine Wetland subclass requiring assessment and protection as Waters of the State.


New Mexico Rapid Assessment Method for Lowland Riverine Wetlands, Rio Grande/Lower Pecos Watersheds and Regulatory Module for USACE (2019)
This Project is a continuation of the development of wetlands rapid assessment methods geared towards arid land wetlands with a focus on unconfined lowland riverine wetlands in the Middle Rio Grande and Lower Pecos River watersheds in New Mexico. New Mexico Rapid Assessment Method (NMRAM) data were collected from 34 Sample Areas (SAs) – 21 preliminary SAs in 2015, and an additional 13 SAs with the final suite of metrics in 2019. The project resulted in the development of NMRAM Lowland Riverine Wetlands Version 2.1 for large river systems ( and attached). The SWQB Wetlands Program developed Version 1.1 (2016) of Lowland Riverine NMRAM on the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico since it is largely an intact lowland river system. However, riverine wetlands of the Lower Pecos and Rio Grande have expanded our reference set by providing data from lowland riverine wetlands that are impacted and threatened by groundwater extraction, flood control and irrigation activities confining channels, agricultural nutrients, livestock grazing, floodplain development and urbanization. Most of the rapid assessment metrics from Version 1.1 were revised and one new metric (Groundwater Index) was designed and tested as part of this project. In addition, a different approach to stressors resulted in a new stressor checklist that emphasizes processes within the watershed rather than a stressor footprint.



Innovative Restoration of Historic Wetlands Along Sulphur Creek, Valles Caldera National Preserve (2017)

Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, along with state, local, and volunteer partner organizations, completed restoration of 41.6 acres of historic wetlands along Sulphur Creek in Valles Caldera National Preserve of New Mexico. This project was designed to develop and demonstrate the effectiveness of the plug and pond technique in headwater slope wetlands that were de-watered due to historic land uses.

Objectives for sharing information about slope wetlands included: A) producing and distributing a Plug and Pond Technical Guide; B) conducting volunteer workshop weekends where volunteers learned about the plug and pond technique and built ancillary restoration structures out of rocks and sod; C) sharing project results in agency and organizational newsletters. The project also included the collaborative development of the Sulphur Creek Watershed Wetlands Action Plan by project stakeholders. The Wetlands Action Plan identifies further restoration needs and proposed actions for the watershed.

A total of thirty-two plug and pond structures were built. Ninety-three ancillary structures were also built, including: plug and spread structures, rock or sod Zuni bowls, one rock dams, rock rundowns, rock laybacks, media lunas, contour swales, rock laybacks, rolling dips, bypass channels, tree felling, and elk exclosure fencing. The project repaired incised channels and numerous headcuts to slow the flow of water, spread the water, raise the water table to re-hydrate historic wetlands, and increase water storage in the wetlands.




Rapid Assessment for New Mexico’s Playa Region Southern High Plains (2017)

This project was designed to expand rapid assessment methods for New Mexico to the depressional class of wetlands requiring assessment and protection as waters of the state. The project also resulted in the development of the first NMRAM for playa wetlands of the Southern High Plains.

Through this project six major objectives were accomplished:

1) data collection, analysis, and validation for New Mexico’s first depressional wetland NMRAM (Playa Wetlands) including the development of NMRAM for Playa Wetlands Field Guide 1.2 and fillable PDF data collection worksheets

2) Formation of a Technical Advisory Committee which met two times to provide input to NMRAM development

3) Two trainings were held for users of Playa Wetlands NM RAM

4) The New Mexico Wetlands Roundtable continued to be conducted – the Northern Wetlands Roundtable and Southern Wetlands Roundtable each meet twice per year – the meetings focused on the objectives established by the group.

5) SWQB Wetlands Program conducted the 2nd Wetlands Across Borders Meeting: Playas of the Southern High Plains in Clovis, NM

6) Finally, the SQUID database at SWQB has been expanded to accept NMRAM data for Playa Wetlands. The development of NMRAM has been shared locally and nationally through presentations and public events.




Assessing Beaver Habitat on Federal Lands in New Mexico (2016)

The goals of this project were to:

1) update wetland mapping for 3,900 square miles in Northern NM near the Jemez Mountains where beaver populations are known to occur;

2) identify beaver habitat on all federal lands in NM using a Geographic Information System (GIS) model; and

3) convene experts at a Beaver and Wetlands Workshop to exchange information and promote recovery of dam -building beaver populations throughout New Mexico.

The results of the model include three GIS layers: Potential Beaver Habitat, Suitable Beaver Habitat, and Occupied Beaver Habitat. Many state, federal, and private entities are now using these layers to plan for wetlands and beaver habitat restoration in New Mexico.




Innovative Design and Restoration of Slope Wetlands in the Comanche Creek Watershed, New Mexico (2016)

The New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau Wetlands Program (SWQB Wetlands Program), in cooperation with Quivira Coalition, the US Forest Service – Carson National Forest, the Comanche Creek Working Group, and numerous volunteers, have completed restoration of 94 of acres of slope wetlands along Grassy and Springwagon Creeks in the Comanche Creek Watershed in Northern New Mexico.

This project was designed to characterize slope wetlands and develop effective, innovative restoration techniques for slope wetlands at location s where the wetlands are de-watering due to historical land uses. The project goals include developing, implementing, and sharing the innovative techniques widely so that they will be used on other slope wetlands, as well as prioritizing and planning for future wetland restoration in the Comanche Creek Watershed.




Mapping and Classification for Wetlands Protection, Northeastern New Mexico Highlands and Plains (2016)

The New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau Wetlands Program (SWQB Wetlands Program), in cooperation with the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Geospatial Services (GSS) and a Project Advisory Committee, have completed mapping and classification of wetland resources in northeastern New Mexico and in US Forest Service (USFS) Wilderness Areas.

The study areas covered by this project included the Canadian River watershed, the Dry Cimarron watershed, the Upper Gallinas watershed, the Upper Pecos watershed, the Upper Rio Grande Watershed and all USFS Wilderness wetlands

This project mapped wetlands within 19,755 square miles (12,643,344 acres) of New Mexico land area. This is more than three times the land area proposed (5,800 sq mi) at the beginning of the project. Based on the final mapping 163,355 acres (1.3 percent) are wetland, deepwater or riparian habitat.




New Mexico Wetlands, From Plan to Action Phase 3 (2016)

This Project developed four new WAPs. Three NMRAM Trainings were held. Two workshops trained more than 40 participants, some of which were tribal representatives. In addition, one training targeted tribal environmental staff at an EPA-sponsored tribal workshop for tribes located throughout the southwest. The Wetlands Action Plan Guidance was updated with lessons learned and the incorporation of new data sources that was critically missing from the development of previous WAPs. Water Quality Standards for Wetlands were developed in NM, existing anti-degradation policies were applied to wetland in NM.




Rapid Assessment of Riverine Wetlands in the Gila Watershed (2016)

This Project is a continuation of the development of wetlands rapid assessment methods in riverine New Mexico systems. High-resolution multispectral imagery was collected from 58 Gila, San Francisco and Mimbres River floodplains. The Project was designed to test the Montane Riverine NMRAM as developed by previous projects on the Upper Rio Grande, to expand the reference domain to the mountain ranges of Southern New Mexico and to refine the subclass description for montane riverine wetlands. The project also resulted in the development of the first NMRAM for large river systems (Lowland Riverine NMRAM). the SQUID database at SWQB has been expanded to accept Rapid Assessment of Riverine Wetlands in the Gila Watershed SW NM Final Report NMRAM data. The development of NMRAM has been shared locally and nationally through presentations and public events.




Curry County Playas Restoration and Protection (2014)

This project focused on an important goal of the SWQB Wetlands Program to target vulnerable isolated wetlands for restoration and protection. The playa wetlands in the Southern High Plains region of New Mexico are the principal source of surface water in the area, important recharge zones for the Ogallala aquifer below, and integral for many animal species.

The project aimed to protect more than 150 acres of playa watershed and restore 60 acres of playa wetland and buffer areas through partnerships with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and private landowners. Integral to the goal of restoration and protection of these vulnerable wetlands was engaging community members, schools and other stakeholders regarding the importance of these wetlands.




La Cienega de San Vincente Wetland Project (2014)

This project sought to protect, sustain, and restore more than 35 acres of riverine wetlands. The Surface Water Quality Bureau worked to establish new partnerships to achieve a net increase in wetland acres.

The project goals also included:

1) Developing criteria for assessing the condition of degraded wetlands in the arid southwest

2) Improving knowledge and decision-making ability in local government for the protection of wetlands, create new partnerships to increase awareness of local wetland resources, and involve local communities members in the restoration of local degraded areas.

3) Demonstrating methods for restoration of similar wetlands in other geographically isolated watersheds.




Rapid Assessment for New Mexico Wetlands Upper Rio Grande Phase 2 (2014)

This project is a continuation of the development of wetlands rapid assessment with a focus on riverine wetlands in the Upper Rio Grande watershed as our reference domain. The project examined and tested a number of rapid assessment techniques, and engage a statewide wetlands workgroup to collaborate on defining and prioritizing goals for wetlands protection and management and to share information about ongoing wetlands efforts statewide.

The New Mexico Statewide Wetlands Roundtable is maintained by the Wetlands Program, and was expanded to include Agency and NGO roundtable meetings that each meet twice a year.

Because of the complex nature of creating a rapid assessment methodology for wetlands, this project was split into two phases in 2008 and this Final Report is for Phase 2. Phase 2 tasks convened the Advisory Team which reviewed the Draft User’s Manual and Field Guide; scheduled entry to selected wetlands that spans the range in variation; conducted field team training; and collected data from 31 wetland assessment areas.




Restoring and Protecting Wetlands in Cebolla Canyon Closed Basin (2014)

The NMED Surface Water Quality Bureau Wetlands Program, in cooperation with the Rio Puerco Alliance and the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation have worked with the Rio Puerco Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management to complete a wetlands restoration demonstration project to return Cebolla Creek- located in Cebolla Canyon Closed Basin, Cibola County- to its pre-agricultural condition.

This project achieved four acres of new jurisdictional wetlands, 30 acres where wetland hydrology has been established, and 1.5 miles of rewetted stream reach. Seven weekend workshops were held with volunteers using restoration field methods. After the project ended the BLM has agreed to rest the project area from grazing by cattle for at least two years to allow vegetation communities to grow.




Integrating Stream Restoration Principles and Transportation Maintenance (2013)

The original goal of this Project was to demonstrate innovative methods and comprehensive approaches to restore approximately 30 acres of wetland and riparian areas in and adjacent to the West Fork of the Gila River.

This project brought together new partnerships in the southeastern part of the State to demonstrate bioengineereing techniques that could be used by road and maintenance engineers that actually improve stream, wetlands and riparian areas that are in the vicinity of road projects, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.

The objectives of the Project were to demonstrate to partners geomorphic characterization of the stream segment, design of appropriate in-stream structures that improve degrading stream conditions, and plan riparian planting techniques to achieve a net increase of wetlands by 30 acres by effectively stabilizing stream banks adjacent to New Mexico State Highway 15; restoring approximately 30 acres of riparian habitat; and to provide training and outreach for NM Department of Transportation (NMDOT) staff on project principles.




New Mexico Wetlands Ecological Indicators Project (2013)

Through this project a Vegetation Index of Biotic Integrity (VIBI) for the mid -montane riverine subclass of wetlands was developed using data collected from the Upper Rio Grande to ensure that NM Rapid Assessment Methods are providing an accurate picture of wetland condition.

A VIBI focuses on plant indicators of ecosystem integrity that reflect stressors such as hydrological alteration, exotic species invasions, soils disturbance, and other human-caused disturbance processes. Wetlands restoration and management can thus be improved to prevent disturbance and provide protection to suites of plants with the lowest levels of human disturbance.




Comprehensive Wetland Restoration and Protection in Santa Fe County (2013)

This project was designed to engage a diversity of partnerships and strategies to improve wetland protection, increase the information available for Santa Fe County wetlands for partners, and demonstrate wetland restoration in Santa Fe County.

The wetlands in the area are degraded and threatened by groundwater diversion in wells throughout the City of Santa Fe and the County, sheet and gully erosion resulting from past and current land use, and the impacts from non- native plant species encroachment. The hydro-geological mechanics of water sources that support the springs, seeps, and wetlands are poorly understood. This project conducted research that was needed to inform decision makers and encourage them to take regional measures in groundwater extraction for the long -term protection of the springs and wetlands in the County.




Restoring Wetlands and Wet Meadows on the Valles Caldera National Preserve Project (2012)

The project workplan focuses on activities in three stream systems in the Valle Caldera National Preserve: San Antonio Creek, Sulphur Creek fen and ponds, and La Jara Creek. Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, Albuquerque Wildlife Federation, Stream Dynamics Inc. and Dryland Solutions Inc. were all partners in mapping and restoring wetland areas along the three creeks. As well, the San Antonio Wetland Action Plan (WAP) was completed as part of this project. Over twenty-six acres of former wetlands were re-wetted as part of this project.




Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park Wetlands Restoration Project (2011)

The Surface Water Quality Bureau and the NM State Parks Division of the NM Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department partnered to conduct wetlands restoration to reintroduce historic wetland conditions on approximately 30 acres adjacent to the Rio Grande in south central New Mexico.

The project goals included: removing exotic plant species by hand and mechanical techniques, mechanical disturbance of coyote willow to promote regeneration, and replanting native riparian and wetland vegetation. As well, the project developed a docent-training program that will train volunteer staff to educate visitors about wetlands and wetland restoration methods, including the restoration techniques used in this project. This project restored over 31 acres of wetlands.




New Mexico Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment Strategy Development of Elements 1 and 2 (2012)

The goal of this project is to plan and coordinate New Mexico’s long-term comprehensive wetlands assessment and monitoring program that facilitates statewide wetlands management and is coordinated with our State water monitoring strategy.

The SWQB Wetlands Program’ wetlands assessment and monitoring strategy considers monitoring design, assessment parameters, methods for assessment, quality management objectives, data management and analysis, data gaps, coordination with other monitoring programs, reporting and general support and infrastructure. This strategy is developed for implementation during the next ten years.




New Mexico Wetlands and Riparian Corridors- From Plan to Action Phase 2 (2011)

This project had three goals:

1) To incorporate a Wetlands Program Element into the State’s Water Quality Management Plan

2) As part of the Wetlands Action Plan Program, continue to facilitate and provide technical assistance to watershed groups throughout the State to develop wetlands projects and proposals on a voluntary basis as an additional component of their Watershed Implementation Plans

3) Target the Playa Lakes region of eastern New Mexico for stakeholder involvement and the development of a plan to protect playas.

Additional tasks focused on strengthening partnerships and activities by watershed groups using the Wetlands Action Plan process. Four Wetlands Action Plans and three more projects that will complete Wetlands Action Plans also resulted from this project.




Rio de las Vacas Wetlands Restoration Project (2011)

  Making a “Beaver Deceiver”

This project restored 39 acres of wetlands and approximately 2.53 miles of riparian area using bio-engineering the stream and wetlands; planting native wetland vegetation; repairing fencing and building cattle and elk  mini- exclosures; and installing innovative hemi-exclosure fences. The project also included three workshops on co-existing with beaver, including installing beaver deceiver devices to prevent flooding.

Volunteer work crews, guided by restoration contractors, were directly responsible for much of the labor of planting woody vegetation, checking fences, and hand-placing rocks for erosion control structures. Through this project the Rio de las Vacas is moving towards a naturally functioning, self-sustaining wetland ecosystem by improving conditions for beaver, the most natural wetland engineer.




El Restauro Phase 1 Project- Wetland/Riparian Restoration on the Upper Rio Grande, Pilar to San Juan Pueblo (2010)

El Restauro Project focuses on a 25- mile section of the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico from Pilar to Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. The purpose of this project is to enhance and coordinate efforts to restore wetlands and wildlife habitat (particularly for endangered species), acequias and agricultural lands, and water quality along this reach of the Upper Rio Grande.

The project goals included constructing demonstration wetlands/riparian restoration projects, partly in an area of the Rio Grande Bosque destroyed by fire, and using return flows to benefit water quality in the wetlands and the adjacent Rio Grande. Two sites (15 acres and 18 acres) were already selected for demonstration project implementation. Two additional demonstration restoration sites (8 acres and 40 acres) were also included.




Hyperspectral and Multispectral Imagery of 30 Reference Sites in the Upper Rio Grande Watershed Project (2010)

The NMED SWQB Wetlands Program is developing a rapid assessment methodology (NMRAM) for assessing wetlands throughout New Mexico. NMRAM development began with a focus on the Upper Rio Grande watershed as our reference domain.

NMRAM development requires precise and scientifically sound measurement of existing conditions of its reference set in order to develop models that distinguish between naturally occurring variables and changes that result from human activities. This imagery covered 45 riverine reference sites- 15 more than planned and nearly complete representation within the subclass.




Planning for Wetlands in the Galisteo Watershed Project (2010)

The projects “Planning for Wetlands in the Galisteo Watershed” (2004- 2009) and “Galisteo Pilot Project” (2009- 2010) incorporate wetland restoration and protection into local and regional planning initiatives in the Galisteo Watershed.

These initiatives include Santa Fe County’s current planning initiatives for the area, identification of areas of Significant Conservation Value as part of “Green Infrastructure” planning for the Galisteo Watershed (Galisteo Watershed Conservation Initiative), efforts related to tamarisk and other non- native invasive species management, a plan for 24 archeological areas developed by BLM based on recent Federal Legislation, the statewide network New Mexico Wildways, and inclusion in the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Upper Rio Grande priority, area among others.




Stewart Meadows Wetlands Waterfowl Habitat Improvement Partnership Project  (2009)

The Stewart Meadows Wetlands Waterfowl Habitat Improvement Partnership Project was developed with the goal of creating and improving wetland habitat for migratory waterfowl. The previous  private landowners drained and leveled the land for irrigated agriculture to grow hay for their ranching operation. The nearly flat terrain and irrigation ditches presented an ideal opportunity to develop shallow water wetlands for waterfowl migration, feeding, and breeding habitat.

The goals of this project were to develop moist soil habitat within 300 available acres. Moist soil supports the macroinvertebrate and plant community that provides the correct protein for waterfowl dietary needs. Stream restoration methods included plug and pond structures, flow splitters, and outreach to local schools.




Restoring Wetlands and Training Wetland Restoration Specialists on Cedro Creek (2009)

The Restoring Wetlands and Training Wetlands Specialists on Cedro Creek project addressed impacts from poorly designed road construction utilizing a combination of on-the-ground implementation practices (induced meandering), training seminars, outreach, and volunteer engagement. The techniques employed in induced meandering are based on the principles developed by Dave Rosgen and utilizing locally available materials.

The techniques have been proven especially effective for improving wetland, riparian and stream habitat in ephemeral and interrupted streams in arid landscapes. This combined effort facilitated not only the improvements on 17 acres of wetland and riparian wetland habitat, but included 1,286 volunteer hours from diverse community groups, and utilized and trained “hands-on” 34 seminar participants.