Kiowa National Grassland and the Canadian River Riparian Restoration Project Wins 2021 USDA Forest Service National Rise to the Future Award

Release Date: Jun 18, 2022

Contact(s): Patricia E. Johnson

Albuquerque, NM, June 16, 2022 – Congratulations to the Kiowa National Grassland and the Canadian River Riparian Restoration Project for their 2021 USDA Forest Service National Rise to the Future Award for Collaborative and Integrated Aquatic Stewardship. These groups have been working in partnership to restore the watershed for many years by treating invasive species in the riparian corridor as well as other projects. 

The Canadian River Riparian Restoration Project (CRRRP) in northeastern New Mexico is recognized for its collaborative and integrated efforts in aquatic stewardship. The Project is a collaboration of eight Soil and Water Conservation Districts, 21 State and Federal Agencies, and the Kiowa National Grassland (NG) of the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands. The Canadian River is about 2,500 miles long, 20 miles of which is in the Kiowa NG. The Canadian River is faced with several challenges, including non-native invasive plants such as abundant saltcedar (Tamarisk spp.) and musk thistle growing in its riparian areas, and a road crossing which did not allow fish and other aquatic organisms to pass in low- or average-flows. Control of saltcedar is important, since large saltcedar trees are estimated to consume up to 200 gallons of water per day.

Together, this partnership completed a multi-year, watershed-scale project utilizing a headwaters-down approach on over 2000 miles of the river corridor, opening 50 miles of aquatic habitat upstream of one road crossing and using herbicide and mastication to treat over 33,000 acres of invasive plants on Federal, State and Private lands (1550 acres on the Kiowa NG). In addition, natural revegetation and plantings of native species along the riverbanks has improved habitat for migratory birds, and improving deep pool habitat in the river for native aquatic species has enhanced recreational fishing opportunities on the Canadian River. The Partnership received over $7 million in grant funding to work on public and private lands along the river corridor.

Part of the work done on the Kiowa NG with the CRRRP was the construction of Canadian River Crossing Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) where a Forest Service Road crosses the Canadian River in Mills Canyon. The concrete crossing which had existed for decades in Mills Canyon was an impediment to aquatic organisms including one particular species of concern, the suckermouth minnow. The work on the Kiowa NG consisted of removal of the old structure and construction of a stone crossing inset into the riverbed which would not impede passage of aquatic organisms during moderate- and low-flow times of the Canadian River. After the Kiowa NG successfully completed NEPA and modified an existing Agreement with the CRRRP, to the CRRRP was able contract the AOP’s designer and construction to implement the project. The construction of the AOP was completed in December of 2020, and it was determined that the project was successful after the spring and summer rains came and the river flow returned.

before picture is a dry road and the after picture has water for an aquatic passing.
Photos: Kiowa National Grassland, Canadian River Crossing Aquatic Organism Passage before and after constructions of an aquatic organism passage crossing.
winding river in grasslands.
Photo: After treatment of the invasive and abundant saltcedar.

This great partnership between CRRRP and the Kiowa NG has accomplished valuable restoration work, but the work is not quite over yet - control of invasive plants requires continued maintenance to treat re-sprouts and new populations. Monitoring the function of AOP and the fish populations in the Canadian River on the Kiowa National Grassland will also continue to ensure success.

For More Information on this and other Cibola NF & NGs land management projects.

Kiowa and Rita Blanca NGs Ranger District Office: 575-374-9652 Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands Supervisor’s Office: 505-346-3900



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