Photo: Janice Tucker
Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve (LCWP), a 35 acre nature preserve managed by the Santa Fe Botanical Garden (SFBG), has forested riparian, scrub upland, and rare cienega (wetland) habitats hosting a diversity of native plant and wildlife species. These habitats have become degraded due to historic land management practices and intentional and unintentional introductions of invasive plants. Noxious weeds present at LCWP, including Russian knapweed (Rhaponticum repens), Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), and bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), have the potential to spread into forested riparian areas through a number of vectors including hydrological (along drainages), recreational (frequent use of the site by hikers and birders), and airborne and wildlife seed dispersal. Over the past ten years, populations of invasive species have expanded to a magnitude where SFBG staff and volunteers no longer have the resources or capacity to control them. Two acres of upland habitat are now impacted by dense stands of Russian knapweed. Russian olive trees in the riparian forest gallery (est. 10-25 trees/acre over 8 acres) have been implicated in the drying of the cienega. Bull thistle is appearing throughout the site in low densities. And, while the teasel population currently only encompasses a ½ acre of wetland habitat, it is clearly spreading upstream.
In late 2016, the Santa Fe-Pojoaque Soil and Water Conservation District received a grant from New Mexico State Forestry for Invasive Weed Management at the LCWP in partnership with Santa Fe Botanical Garden and the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE). IAE led the restoration effort in 2017 and will continue working alongside partners, contractors, and volunteers to complete treatments in 2018. Other project partners and support are: Native Plant Society of New Mexico, Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), volunteers, and Robert Sivinki (RCS Southwest Consulting).
The project goals are to: 1) prevent invasive species from displacing native communities in forested and forest-connected habitats, 2) restore the habitat and improve water resources available to native species, and 3) protect adjacent forested areas from invasive species expansion.