About Save Our Bosque Task Force
Mission and Vision
The riparian forest (the Bosque) and the Rio Grande have been central to the Southwest region's human settlement. Humans have utilized the Bosque for centuries, gathering wood for fuel, construction of tools, and shelter. The riparian and aquatic flora and fauna have also been used, and, in some cases, abused. Compounding man's impact to the bosque are changing river dynamics, aging stands of trees; and invasion of non-native species of plants.
The SOCORRO SAVE OUR BOSQUE TASK FORCE works to preserve, protect, and enhance the Rio Grande river and its adjoining riparian area (bosque, wetlands, grasslands) while respecting the customs and cultures of the residents of Socorro County to provide for public recreation, allow for historical resource use, and plan for public safety, all within the confines of current infrastructure and political limitations.
We envision a riparian ecosystem that functions as naturally as possible within the confines of the 21st Century infrastructure and political limitations while respecting the traditions and cultures of the citizens of Socorro County.
History and Accomplishments
The Save Our Bosque Task Force was formed as a nonprofit corporation in 1994 by citizens of Socorro County, New Mexico, concerned about degradation of the ecosystem along the Rio Grande bosque due to dumping of trash, off-road vehicle use, illegal fuelwood cutting, and wildfire.
With the goal of educating the public about conservation and habitat issues, the Task Force began by establishing the Socorro Nature Area, a picnic area and informative nature trail near Lemitar. Today, the Socorro Nature Area is a 120-acre environmental education area that includes a ½-mile self-guided nature walk with interpretive signs, a pond, and a small amphitheatre. It also has picnic tables, a group shelter, and a restroom.
For a link to the BLM webpage with Trail and Activities Guides for the Socorro Nature Area, click here.
From the Socorro Nature Area there followed the development of a series of riverine parks along the Rio Grande from San Acacia to San Marcial (known as the San Acacia Reach of the river). These parks provide access to the river at specific sites while limiting off-road vehicular traffic in the bosque. The parks have tables and fire rings where people can go down to the bosque and enjoy themselves without stumbling through dumps of tires and other trash. The Socorro County Commission requested the Task Force's assistance in improving the recreational area around Escondida Lake. Work was completed in 1999. Escondida Lake is a popular fishing spot, as well as a favorite picnic and camping area.
Habitat Restoration and Protection
One of the Task Force’s most important program areas is habitat protection, restoration, and improvement. We work with citizen and agency partners to improve the health of the bosque, with the goal of restoring an ecosystem that supports a diversity of plants and animals and is able to regenerate itself following periods of drought, severe weather, or wildfires.
We coordinate the overall planning for analysis and rehabilitation of degraded areas, referring to the Bosque Biological Management Plan and other management plans relevant to this area when planning yearly work schedules. Our project areas and goals include:
Protection and enhancement of native vegetation communities (exotic species treatment and removal, hazardous fuels reduction, re- establishment of native plants)
Rehabilitation of burned and disturbed areas (re-vegetation, management of exotic species, hazardous fuels reduction)
Restoration of natural river processes (planning, coordination with water management agencies, education, outreach)
Protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat (management of exotic species, designate public access, protect sensitive areas)
Development of protocols for research and monitoring (collaboration, prescriptions, contracts)
Development of capacity of local businesses and creation of ancillary benefits to the community
Starting in 1998, removal of non-native trees such as tamarisk (salt cedar), as well as excess dead and fallen trees, has been ongoing on both sides of the river. This reduces the amount of fuel for wildfires, thus helping to protect the bosque and the public from wildfire.
The Task Force led an initiative and raised funds for research and development of a planning tool for landowners and management agencies interested in improving the health of the San Acacia Reach. The resulting technical report, completed in 2004, is the "Conceptual Restoration Plan for the Active Floodplain of the Rio Grande from San Acacia to San Marcial, NM." The Conceptual Restoration Plan is a long-range planning document identifying current vegetation, potential for flooding, habitat restoration options, and guiding development of implementation strategies. Scientific studies guide these strategies. The plan also takes into consideration social, political, and environmental issues affecting this reach of the river. The Task Force works to implement the plan by cooperating with water management agencies, local land managers, and private landowners to restore sites designated as priorities.
Funding support for development of the Restoration Plan was provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Middle Rio Grand Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program. Support was also provided by the McCune Charitable Foundation, the Turner Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Funding for implementation of restoration projects contemplated by the Conceptual Restoration Plan comes in various forms, including cost share agreements between private landowners and the Socorro Soil and Water Conservation District, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Local and regional nonprofit land trusts can also provide assistance for landowners interested in setting aside land for conservation easements.
Community Outreach and Environmental Education
The Save Our Bosque Task Force is committed to continuing education to promote awareness and benefits of the Rio Grande Bosque ecosystem. Our outreach activities include:
Development of the Socorro Nature Area, an environmental education center within the Bosque
Preparation of publications and presentations that explain the general activities of the Task Force
Development of media relationships to publicize Task Force activities
Promotion of membership from the non-governmental sector
Establishment of demonstration sites for habitat restoration
Participation in local community activities (Bosque Conservation Day, Socorro County Fair, Earth Day, Ag Day, Sevilleta Career Day)
The amount of work accomplished by the Task Force each year is dependent on funding and support from participating agencies, local communities and other sources. All signatory agencies are currently funding some of the Save Our Bosque Task Force's projects with in-kind contributions or program funds.
The Task Force has received over 1 million dollars for projects and program activities. Additional funding is needed to continue efforts. Grants, in-kind funds and donations are our major sources of income. Additionally:
We continue to seek funding from public agency budgets and grant programs to support Task Force activities (Bosque Initiative-BIG funds; USFWS; BLM; BOR; NM Youth Conservation Corps; Socorro SWCD; State Legislature)
We continue to request funding from private foundations and individual donors (World Wildlife Fund, Turner Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, McCune Foundation, and others).
We are developing on-line solicitation and donations as part of the SOBTF website.
There are three law enforcement agencies and five land management agencies with law enforcement authority in the Socorro area. The agencies coordinate efforts to curb illegal activities within the Bosque. The Socorro Police Department, Socorro County Sheriff Office, and NM State Police patrol lands and roads under their jurisdiction and assist other agencies with their law enforcement duties. The land management agencies of the MRGCD, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, NM State Forestry, and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish patrol their lands and neighboring lands.
Ongoing goals include:
Improving agency coordination to protect the Bosque (cross-commission, joint patrols, information sharing)
Working with local and district court systems to support appropriate prosecution of illegal activities
Developing policies and regulations to assist law enforcement efforts (Bosque access policy for cooperating land management agencies, fuel wood permits)
Improving cooperative response for emergencies and closures (bosque closures, wildfires)