Tiffany Fire Rehabilitation Project
In June 2017, a lightning strike caused a 9200-acre fire near the historic town of San Marcial north of Elephant Butte Reservoir. The fire was carried by dense stands of invasive tamarisk, which burns very quickly and very hot. Unfortunately, the fire killed many old-growth Cottonwood and Goodding's Willow trees, which can be difficult or even impossible to replace. The 9200 acres is split between private and public land, with the majority of the public land owned and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation.
Immediately after the fire, a group of interested stakeholders came together to rehabilitate the area and restore native trees and shrubs to reduce future threats of wildfire. The Tiffany Basin, like the Rio Grande riparian corridor as a whole, has always been a dynamic, disturbance-driven ecosystem. However, due to changes in river flow patterns and other land use changes, the disturbance has shifted from flooding to fire, which has the potential to cause millions of dollars of damage to infrastructure, as well as putting human lives at risk. Additionally, non-native vegetation does not provide high-quality habitat for wildlife. The main goal of the Tiffany Fire Rehabilitation Project is to reduce the occurrence of wildfires on the project area by removing fire-prone Tamarisk (which has begun to resprout) and promoting native vegetation such as Rio Grande Cottonwood, Goodding's Willow, Coyote Willow, New Mexico Olive, and others. Native vegetation will provide habitat for at-risk species such as the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo and Southwestern Willow-Flycatcher, which can be found in the area.
In 2018, Sierra Soil and Water Conservation District led a successful effort to obtain grant funding from the New Mexico Water Trust Board. Multiple partners are involved in this effort, including the Save Our Bosque Task Force, New Mexico State Forestry, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Bureau of Geology, and private landowners and land managers. The Water Trust Board Funding, along with money leftover from New Mexico State Forestry's efforts to fight the fire, will be used to implement Phase 1 of the project.
Phase 1 consists of 4 main priorities: analysis, which will give us an understanding of the hydrology, geology, and soils on the site to ensure successful restoration; planning, which will determine priority areas on which to focus our restoration efforts; site prep, which will treat tamarisk resprouts on priority areas to ensure successful restoration of native species; and compliance, which will ensure all regulatory and legal requirements are met. A project of this magnitude will take careful research and planning to implement successfully, and the Save Our Bosque Task Force is working diligently with all of our partners to ensure that this project achieves long-term success. We continue to seek additional funding for this project.
Stay tuned for updates!
Boundary of the 9200-acre Tiffany fire, outlined in yellow. To the north is the south boundary of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Salt Cedar (tamarisk) which was burned in the Tiffany Fire. The brown growth at the bottom is tamarisk that resprouted after the fire that was then damaged by the Tamarisk Leaf Beetle.
Goodding's Wiillows that have resprouted after the fire.