An area of the Bosque Preserve that  burned in 2012 has been replanted by volunteers and the Corrales Fire Department as a pilot project.

The project involving the Bosque Advisory Commission, N.M. Tree Stewards and Sandoval County Master Gardeners began December 7. An earlier attempt to restore the burned area was only partially successful.

Materials were donated, including   plants and irrigation materials. Trees of Corrales donated 100 native plants in  No.5 containers and Mike Halverson, manager at Santa Ana Nursery, donated a dozen cottonwood poles.

The project was initiated by the Corrales Fire Chief, Anthony Martinez, as a pilot for a low-cost, volunteer supported approach to replanting open areas in the bosque. John Thompson and Don Welsh with the Master Gardeners and N.M. Tree Stewards programs teamed with Martinez to begin the project. Initial watering was accomplished from the fire department’s water tanker; going forward the drip irrigation system installed will be watered from cisterns on top of the nearby levee.

“The Three-leaf Sumacs and Golden Currant plants donated by Trees of Corrales are drought tolerant, pollinators, provide food and habitat for animals, and provide color to the bosque understory,” project coordinators explained. “The Rio Grande cottonwood poles provided by Santa Ana Nursery are 12-13-foot cuttings that can be planted in holes reaching down to water table.

“The drip irrigation system is a gravity-fed system using a donated 500-gallon cistern placed on the top of the nearby levy. The height of the levy provides a usable 4-5 pounds per square inch water flow that is sufficient to supply a drip network covering an approximate 10,000 square foot planting area.

“The drip system is needed to establish the 100 native plants but is temporary and can be removed after a year and reused.”

On December 9, volunteers brought in plants, dug holes, planted and watered by hose from a  fire truck. Materials for the drip system were donated by Ewing Irrigation Systems. The drip system was installed over the following two weeks with emitters to water each of the hundred plants. Each watering cycle can provide 3-5 gallons per plant. The Corrales Fire Department will refill the cistern as needed to provide regular watering of the plants.

“Cottonwood poles have to be planted into the water table. We used a hand auger to find that the water table was at 9-10 feet deep. Volunteers used the hand auger to drill the dozen holes for the donated cottonwood poles. Chicken wire cages were placed around the cottonwood plants to prevent beaver damage. Wood mulch will be added to the planting area as it becomes available from the Fire Department.

“The completed burn scar replanting area will be monitored on a frequent basis by volunteers who visit the area on a daily basis. Volunteers will check for vandalism, drip function, leaks and plant health.

“At the conclusion of the pilot project, we will be able to project success in terms of plant survivability, cost (with and without material and plant donations) and aesthetic improvement of the burn scar area.

“The pilot project can become a model for a sustainable low-cost replanting program for the Corrales bosque. The team will be seeking long term commitments from nurseries and N.M. Forestry for native plants and will seek commitments from volunteer organizations to provide the labor for planting and on-going monitoring.”

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