New Mexcio Watershed Initiative
Since its beginning as the Soil Erosion Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has recognized that planning conservation at the watershed level allows for better collaboration between partners and agricultural producers, better results with targeted efforts, and better adaptation of conservation practices to fit the conditions of the watersheds. NRCS continues to target conservation with projects at the watershed level.
What is a Watershed?
A watershed is an area of land from which surface runoff will drain to a single point. Examples of points that can be used to define a watershed are a culvert, where a creek enters a river, or the mouth of a river into the ocean.
A watershed is defined by topographical features of the land that determine the direction of surface runoff. Watersheds are officially designated by the U.S. Geological Survey using a national standard of designating watershed boundaries at 6 scales. At the largest scale are Regional watersheds and these are assigned a 2 digit number called a Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC). Five Regional watersheds cover the state of New Mexico. The regions are divided into smaller sub-watersheds and more digits are added to the HUC as the watersheds go to smaller scales. The smallest scale of watersheds have a 12 digit HUC.
What is a Successful Watershed Project?
Adapted from the NRCS History Article on Coon Valley by Douglas Helms
The first watershed project in the United States was developed for Cook Creek, Wisconsin in 1933. The 90,000 acre watershed was selected to demonstrate farming techniques to reduce the erosion that was creating gullies in the farm land, depleting the fertility of the soil and degrading the quality of Coon Creek. The farmers in the area were ready for change. At a meeting to discuss the project, the 125 farmers present expressed support for the project, agreed to work with the Soil Erosion Service (SES) to implement conservation practices and promised to secure the support of another 500 farmers in the valley.
Using aerial photography and hand levels, the SES staff worked with the farmers on key conservation practices that over time led to a 75 percent decrease in soil erosion, an increase in the water holding capacity of the soil, the return of trout to the creek, less flooding and increased habitat for wildlife. The conservation practices that led to the successful restoration of the land included:
- Changing the direction of rows from up and down the slope to being placed on the contour.
- Using Stripcropping, primarily using sections of alfalfa between sections of corn, to reduce erosion and trap sediment from the corn fields.
- Increasing the amount of time a field was planted to hay in a rotation. The commonly used rotation was 1 year of corn, followed by 1 year of small grain, then 1 year of hay consisting mostly of timothy and red clover. The conservation crop rotation adopted was 1 year of corn, followed by 1 year of small grain, then 2-4 years of hay consisting of alfalfa with timothy and/or clover.
- Converting steep land and land that was too difficult to farm to pasture. Over time 6 percent of the cropland was changed to pasture, wildlife habitat or woodlands.
- Fencing off woodlands and restricting grazing to reduce soil compaction, soil erosion and improve tree growth.
- Installing grade stabilization measures to stop the spread of gullies.
- Using wing dams, willow matting, planting willows and other stream stabilization measures to reduce erosion along Coon Creek and prevent damage from future floods.
- Establishing feeding station for birds to help them through the winter. Gullies and noncropped corners were planted with species that provided food and cover for wildlife. Hedges that benefitted wildlife were used where possible to also serve as permanent markers of contour stripcropping.
- Reforestation was conducted and species selected were also good for wildlife.
In addition to providing staff to assist with planning the conservation practices, the Soil Erosion Service also provided seeds, fertilizer, lime and fencing supplies. The Civilian Conservation Corps established a camp and workers were provided to crush limestone, dig terraces, build fences and plant trees.
Conservation Practices Protecting Land and Creeks in Coon Valley, Wisconsin in 1955.
Many other watershed initiatives throughout the US have resulted in similar successes. The key components to successful watershed initiatives are:
- Active participation of agricultural producers who work together to resolve issues and share ideas.
- Involvement of partners who bring resources to support the work of the agricultural producers. Key partners bring technical resources, funding and staff who can effectively build collaboration between individuals.
- Identification of the conservation practices that can be economically implemented and that will help producers save time, reduce costs and comply with environmental regulations.
- A process is put into place for monitoring and adapting as lessons are learned.
EQIP Funding For Selected New Mexico Watersheds
In New Mexico, Local Work Groups (LWG) who have identified a need for additional assistance in addressing high priority resource concerns within a portion of their watershed have been approved to participate in the Watershed Initiative. The LWG has made a commitment to dedicate a portion of their initial EQIP allocation, which will be matched with funds from the state reserve. The LWG will collaborate with NRCS to conduct outreach to agricultural producers and identify the conservation practices that best address the needs of the watersheds.
Applications are received year round. Applications received by the following cutoff dates will be considered for funding in fiscal year 2016: January 15, 2016 and April 15, 2016
To be eligible, applicants must meet general EQIP eligibility requirements.
Funding will be provided for practices that are primarily located in the designated watershed area. Practices installed outside the watershed area must address resource concerns in the designated watershed. Applications will be ranked according to criteria established by each field office.
Practices and Payment Rates
The document below requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.
The practices and payment rates used for the New Mexico EQIP Watershed Initiative are the same as those available to the Locally Led Fund Accounts.
The 2016 Payment Schedule and Payment Scenarios are found in the New Mexico Field Office Technical Guide, Section 1, Cost Data, 2016 found here: https://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/efotg_locator.aspx?map=US
The New Mexico list of conservation practices (PDF; 86 KB) shows approved practices and the lifespan of each practice.
Please direct all questions about applying for EQIP to your local office. Click here for the location of the USDA Service Center office nearest you.
Return to NM EQIP Homepage.