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Protecting New Mexico’s watersheds from climate change starts with ‘wetland jewels’

Valle Vidal
Jim O'Donnell
Courtesy of Amigos Bravos
Valle Vidal Wetland in the Carson National Forest.

Water scarcity is a growing issue across New Mexico. Climate change is raising temperatures while 75% of the state’s water goes toward irrigated crops ––stressing the state’s supply.

In response, environmental organizations are protecting the state’s watersheds by setting their sights on important areas known as “wetland jewels.”

It's a name coined by the water conservation advocacy group Amigos Bravos. There are 22 of them in the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests.

“Wetland jewels can be comprised of either a single wetland or a complex of several wetlands,” said Amigos Bravos Exectuive Director Rachel Conn.

Conn said that’s why they are promoting vegetation growth, reintroducing water to dried-out banks and growing these areas to conserve them.

“They are the sponges of the watershed," Conn said. "They serve as nature’s reservoirs, and are critical for providing ecological and community resilience in the face of a changing climate. Also, they’re beautiful.”

Amigos Bravos advocated to designate these areas of swamp or marsh as official management areas in the final version of the Carson and Santa Fe forest plans.

In short, that didn’t happen. But, they were singled out for restoration priorities in the end.

Two active projects are ongoing in the Midnight Meadows jewel above Red River and in La Jara Canyonat the edge of Taos Pueblo. Though, more work is being done to identify and prioritize more of these areas near the Gila and San Juan drainages.

Scroll through these slides for a toolkit on watershed conservation.

Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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