January 6, 2014
Since 2010, NM Wild has received grants from the National Forest Foundation to assist the US Forest Service with inventories of the wilderness areas within New Mexico national forests. On this page we summarize the work that we have been doing, give you links to maps, invasive plant info sheets, and field data log sheets. We invite you to join us doing useful work in the wilderness .
What We Do
Volunteers learn how to collect data using nifty hand-held Geographic Positioning System (GPS) units loaded with Geographic Informations Systems (GIS) software. We hike around looking for human impact on the wilderness in the form of campsites, other human impact (called points of interest), encounters with other hikers, and invasive plants. We also record Natural Characteristics — the “Oh Wow” things that make wilderness special and worth preserving.
The GIS software on the hand-held unit is accessed using touch screen commands and drop-down menus. When we get back to the office, we download the new data onto the GIS maps in the desktop computer. Since surveying is all about accuracy, double-checking, and triple-checking your work, we also record data points with paper and pencil. Here are the five data sheets that we use:
2011 to 2015—Cibola National Forest (click on maps for larger versions)
The Sandia Mountain Wilderness is located just east of Albuquerque. Since 2011, NM Wild continues to remove invasive cheatgrass, and to inventory this area. In 2013, volunteers logged over 400 hours identifying, recording and removing cheatgrass on 15 miles of wilderness trails. This winter we are helping the Sandia Ranger District find and record undesignated user trails on the west side of the Sandia Mountains. We continue to collect data on recreational use, campsites, points of interest, invasive plants and natural characteristics.
In 2011 Wilderness Alliance volunteers conducted extensive inventories in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness and the Withington Wilderness of the Cibola National Forest. In the Sandia Mountain Wilderness, 62 volunteers logged 975 hours finding 150 campsites, 8 stands of cheatgrass, 204 points of human impact, and 123 encounters with other people. Of the 134 miles of frequently used trails in the Sandia Mountains, volunteers were able to survey 117 miles.
In 2014, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance worked to help the Cibola and Gila National Forests in New Mexico meet the requirements of the Wilderness Stewardship Challenge for elements 2 (Non-Native Invasive Plants), 4 (Education Plan), 5 (Solitude Survey),) and 9 (Information Management). Volunteer training began in April 2014 and on-the-ground surveys, inventories and documentation started shortly thereafter in the Sandia and Blue Range Wilderness. In the Cibola, we had the worst cheatgrass season since we embarked on this project, with large infestations of the invasive weeds present early in the spring through summer. Although this was a bad season for the weeds, it gave us a good opportunity to fully document the extent of the invasive plant in the Sandia Wilderness and focus removal efforts early in the season. 485.5 volunteer hours were accrued between March 2014 and March 2015 in the Sandia Wilderness, with 99 volunteers participating.
The Withington Wilderness lies southwest of Socorro, New Mexico. It is only accessible from rough dirt roads. During five overnight trips, volunteers worked for 208 hours to inventory all 17 miles of trails in this seldom used wilderness. Because of the severe drought during the spring and summer of 2012 no invasive plants were identified. Forty-two campsites were found; 38 points of interest were recorded, and 8 encounters occurred.
2014-2015 – Blue Range Wilderness, Gila National Forest
In 2014-2015 our goals in the Blue Range Wilderness were to complete solitude surveys (Element 5) and share key messaging related to wilderness awareness. We began training and recruiting volunteers in April 2014. Nathan Newcomer, in our Silver City office, coordinated efforts in the Silver City community, but also worked with the local chapter of the Great Old Broads in that region, as well as with students at the Aldo Leopold Charter School. Solitude Monitoring was conducted in the Blue Range Wilderness by multiple volunteers who were trained following the US Forest Service National Minimum Protocol for Monitoring. Twenty-six volunteers were trained and contributed a total of 656 hours of time for solitude monitoring in the Blue Range Wilderness. Many of the outings for solitude monitoring in the Blue Range Wilderness consisted of weekend campouts, in addition to a weeklong backpacking trip into the Blue Range Wilderness, where more than 350 hours of time was spent performing solitude surveys.
2012—Lincoln National Forest (click on maps for larger versions)
During 2012, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance volunteers worked with the Smokey Bear Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest to inventory the White Mountain and Capitan Wilderness areas that surround the towns of Ruidoso, Capitan and Lincoln. Our mission was to hike the wilderness trails to inventory campsites, invasive plants, encounters with other people, signs of human impact recorded as points of interest, and natural characteristics. We used ESRI ArcPad 10.0 mapping software loaded onto our hand-held computers. We took GPS-linked photos of every item we found. Back at the office, all the data was combined into digital maps with hyperlinks for each photo.
The Capitan Wilderness is most famous as the home of a bear cub orphaned on May 10, 1950, in a forest fire–Smokey the Bear. Most people don’t know that the Capitan Wilderness is also home to 10,000 foot peaks, vast mountain meadows, steep rocky canyons, elk, mule deer, and black bear. There are seven hiking trails totalling 29 miles, though not all of the miles are accessible because of a wildfire in 2004. Volunteers hiked portions of six of Capitan’s trails, counting 5 campsites, 46 points of interest, 31 stands of invasive Bull thistle and Musk thistle, and only one encounter on the Labor Day weekend. The Capitan Wilderness is isolated, desolate, and very wild.
The White Mountain Wilderness ranges from 6,000 foot desert grasslands to 12,000 foot panoramic views. It covers almost 49,000 acres and ranges from 6,000 to 11,580 feet in elevation. Twenty-six hiking trails, totaling 92 miles, are known to be accessible. Inventory work was interrupted from mid June to late August when the Little Bear wildfire ravaged the mountain, burning almost half of the wilderness area. 35 volunteers came from Carlsbad, Los Lunas, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, Alamogordo, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and New Jersey, They worked 971 hours finding 90 campsites, 125 stands of invasive plants, 215 points of interest, 65 natural characteristics, and 56 encounters with other people. Activities of the people encountered included camping, hiking, photography, hunting, horseback riding and backpacking.
2010—Santa Fe National Forest and Cibola National Forest
Wilderness Alliance volunteers contributed inventory data to the Santa Fe National Forest Stewardship Challenge database by conducting inventory campouts and hikes in the Dome Wilderness near Bandelier National Monument and part of the Pecos Wilderness within the Las Vegas Ranger District. UNM students assisted by inventory-ing trails in the Manzano Mountain Wilderenss within the Cibola National Forest.
Invasive Plant Information Sheets
Don Heinze, retired BLM invasive plant expert, has been helping Wilderness Alliance volunteers learn about the importance of invasive plants in the wilderness. He gives talks and field lessons on how to identify these nasty invaders. Don prepared information sheets for us to use as we hike around in wilderness areas. Below you can click on the photos to open information sheets for Cheatgrass, Spotted Knapweed, Scott’s Thistle, Musk Thistle, Bull Thistle, Dalmation Toadflax, and Oxeye Daisy.
For more information about the Wilderness Stewardship Challenge work of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, or to ask about any of the information on this web-page, please contact:
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is the proud recipient of a REI grant for $20,000 to support stewardship projects on New Mexico’s best public lands. REI’s commitment builds greater awareness for the importance of volunteerism and is an investment in stewardship of our wilderness areas.
The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is the proud recipient of a Wilderness Stewardship Challenge award from the National Forest Foundation! The National Forest Foundation, chartered by Congress, engages America in community-based and national programs that promote the health and public enjoyment of the 193-million acre National Forest System, and accepts and administers private gifts of funds and land for the benefit of the National Forests.
The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance uses Esri GIS mapping software. GIS is the data mapping, management and analysis technology developed over 40 years ago and widely used today by every type of non-profit, commercial, government and private institution to create, manage and publish spatial data. ESRI GIS is used today as the foundation for online spatial data and maps at tens of thousands of universities, government agencies and organizations.