• Red Rocks with water in front of them in the desert.
  • Clouds behind Joshua Tree and bushes.
  • Desert flowers blooming in bushes in front of mountains in the desert.
  • Setting sun reflecting of clouds of orange and blue behind a joshua tree.
  • Hoover Dam intake towers with water behind the dam showing that it is not full.


Aligning ecological restoration and community interests through active experimentation

Science Need(s)
1) Interactions between ecosystems and hydrology, 2) Impacts of climate change and land/resource management to watersheds and associated hydroecologic resources, 3) Investigate climate change impacts to future water supply and resource availability for humans and ecosystems, and 4) Improved monitoring and inventory of watersheds and their associated infrastructure and ecosystems (including pathogens and invasive species)

Grantee: Alamosa Land Institute
Principle Investigators: Connie Maxwell
Cooperative Agreement:  $35,319 in non-Federal funds and $35,113 in Federal funds provided by Bureau of Reclamation
Project Duration: 2012-2014

Project Goal(s)

Develop new information about local needs and ecological conditions in the agricultural community of Canada Alamosa and test the effectiveness of traditional resource management practices combined with restoration techniques supporting sustainable economic development. Analyze existing example projects and the potential for demonstrating efficiency of restoring a riparian buffer within the existing Alamosa Creek channel and along irrigation ditches, planting field distractor crops and wind breaks and supporting habitat for pest predators. Develop a model that can be used for scientific and agency support for local land managers to maximize ecosystem services.

Brief Project Description

Overgrazing and fire suppression have led to a loss of deep soils and vegetative cover in the 420,000 acre Alamosa Creek watershed in southwestern New Mexico.  Rain and snow melt are no longer held by the soils and released slowly, but run off in floods, resulting in catastrophic flows and severe erosion that contribute sediment to Elephant Butte Dam. The diverse community of farmers that irrigate 800 acres of valley land on 49 farms in Cañada Alamosa are looking to revive traditional and develop innovate new practices to maintain their way of life.  Partnerships are required to design new land management practices between scientists and local land managers.  This project is a component of a larger Alamos Land Institute goal to restore the Cañada Alamosa watershed and lessen the catastrophic consequences of flood events. We will work with community members to recover knowledge about traditional methods and identify the current needs of ranchers and farmers.  We will then combine this information with our current scientific understanding of riparian ecosystems processes to design a restoration model that can benefit both the river and the local community.  We will develop a demonstration project with a local landowner to implement the theoretical model.  This project will give farmers the tools to adapt to climate change and protect and develop their livelihood and way of life, while at the same time beginning to restore the healthy riparian ecosystem upon with the community ultimately depends.

Project Location

Cañada Alamosa Watershed, New Mexico

Project Tasks

Landowner interviews and analysis using oral history tools to develop a dialogue around traditional and innovative farming practices that can have positive ecological benefits.

  • Focus of land management techniques that enhance ecosystem services using previous studies, an analysis of the ecology of the watershed and a proposed watered plan following the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment methodology.
  • Develop a case study which outlines potential practices of particular interest, looking at indicators of climate change to develop alternate scenarios for riparian habitat restoration.
  • Design demonstration project, including site analysis of existing conditions, proposed restoration, survey of know practices to implement, project goals, preliminary cost-benefit analysis, and design desired analysis.
  • Work with land owner to implement restoration practices.
  • Monitor and evaluate results, with final study to include a cost-benefit analysis using dynamic optimization modeling tools.
  • Disseminate results to stakeholders, researchers, and policy makers through scientific publications and presentations.

Project Deliverables

  • Documentation of community ecological knowledge and traditional practices
  • Model for ecological restoration and community involvement
  • Assessment of ecosystem services (GIS)
  • Vegetative surveys of base conditions (GIS)
  • Stream morphology changes (GIS)
  • Fluctuations in base flow (GIS)
  • Scientific publication

Documents for downloading

Project Proposal