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Pecos River conservation projects awarded $1.5M » Albuquerque Journal

CARLSBAD – Conservation projects in the Pecos River area got a boost this year as about $1.5 million in grants were awarded to organizations in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas to restore habitats and maintain the health of the river.

The Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative, a consortium of private companies and government agencies created in 2017, released its fourth annual grant funds last week, providing money for seven projects along the river.

The funds were matched by about $3 million from participating organizations, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

Last year, about $1.8 million was awarded to eight projects, matched with $3.7 million.

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Partners in the initiative included oil and gas companies such as Chevron, Occidental Petroleum and XTO Energy and federal government agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management.

In a joint statement, the initiative’s corporate members said the funding was intended to improve communities that host oil and gas extraction, such as those in the Permian Basin, which spans southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, along with the Pecos River Valley.

“Our people are on the ground every day in the Pecos, living and working, so it is essential that the initiative’s investments provide real benefits to local communities, landscapes and wildlife,” the statement said.

“By strengthening the health of existing habitats along the Pecos River and its tributaries in eastern New Mexico and West Texas, by improving the management and function of native grasslands, and by protecting some of the last remaining populations of native fish and other aquatic species found only in the Chihuahuan Desert, we are achieving this goal.”

BLM New Mexico Acting Director Melanie Barnes said the projects were needed to support the diverse ecosystems in the Pecos River area, restore native grasslands and combat invasive species.

“Controlling invasive species brings restored grasslands and improved water quality and availability, and modifying restrictive fencing brings unobstructed movement across these landscapes for both large and small game animals,” Barnes said. “Both of these efforts are management priorities for public lands.”

In 2020 and 2021, the 15 projects awarded funding have led to the leasing of more than 13,000 acre-feet of water to support restoring aquatic habitats, restoration of about 26 square miles of grasslands in the Chihuahuan Desert, while improving grassland management of 36 square miles. More than 60 miles of new fencing safe for native pronghorns was to be installed, while hydrology was restored at four habitat sites.