Rare Plants in New Mexico, a Rhyme

 

Rare Plants of New Mexico

I am on a mission, a wild plant hunt

To find the rarest, most special flora of the runt

The struggling plant species throughout the state

The munched, tired, living on specific substrate

Many grow near roads, trails, oil and gas

Where their little stems don’t stand a chance

Townsendia, the sweet little desert daisy

Thrives on gypsum soil and trails that go crazy

Astragalus, the yummy little pea

Grows in PJ shrublands with glee

Eriogonum, the vibrant buckwheat

Bright yellow flowers lookin so sweet

On gypsum soil is where it is found

And oil and gas is always around

Bracks cactus, the tiniest little thing

Easy to miss, until you feel it’s sting

All these plants are important and sweet

Bringing diversity only they can meet

Tagging, surveying, monitoring a’plenty

This work is tedious but the rewards are many

Helping understand population, habitat, and needs

In order to conserve and protect these plants and their seeds!

Field Season in New Mexico, a Rhyme

Sage, pinon, juniper galore

Learning these plants is never a bore

Heterotheca makes me smile and sneeze,

Yellow aster growing along roads with ease

Sphaeralcea, the most beautiful orange flower

Got the bees pollinating, growin’ in power

Sporobolous, Elymus, Bothriochloa, me o’ my

Graminoids with an abundance like pie

Can’t forget the good ol’ Bouteloua

Gracilis, curtipendula, and eriopoda,

Their seeds ripen and ready only in the fall

The phenology of these plants is such a ball

Seasons change, monsoons come and go

I love being able to see the shift so slow

Fallugia, the puffy seed heads so fun to collect

It is meditative focusing my energy on this subject

Of conservation, restoration, harvesting plant power

To make this world more green, native, and wild by the hour!

Using petal-powered fun to collect Heterotheca villosa

Welcome to Carlsbad, NM

My introduction to local conservation policies and practices began where the Black River first surfaces—at Rattlesnake Spings. Here, the texture of my new landscape expressed itself as a collaborative group of dignitaries with interest in the thrival of Popenaias popeii, or the Texas hornshell mussel—the last remaining native mussel in New Mexico and an ESA Candidate species.

Popenaias popeii, or Texas hornshell mussel.

I field-tripped with this lively group of dignitaries to critical anthropogenic influence loci along the Black River. As they discussed the technicalities of flow targets, stream gauge locations and dispersal barriers, they also expressed core values and beliefs about their relationship to this land. Prided on personal liberty and averse to government intervention, these folks articulated a legacy and ethic of individual agency in private stewardship. “They’re a hardy species, and they’ll come back if they have what they need. … [Providing what they need] is up to us. … It won’t be easy, but worthwhile undertakings rarely are,” said private landowner Jim Davis.

This legacy is eligible for institutional legitimacy and merit in the form of Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs), Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) and conservation/mitigation credits. The policy concerning this program has recently (this January 18th!) been refined in USFWS’s Director’s Order No 218, which can be found at https://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_ESA/pdf/Director’sOrder_with_Voluntary_Prelisting_conservation_policy_Directors_Order_Attachment-Final.pdf.

Later in the week, I was privileged to also attend the New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council’s (NMRPTC) annual meeting in Albuquerque, NM. Here, statewide rare plant advocates met to update New Mexico’s rare plant list as well as to share updates on conservation actions and receive briefings on their new Draft Rare Plant Conservation Strategy and the Strategy’s Rare Plant Scorecard tool (both adapted from Colorado’s models). An Important Plant Areas map is also being developed with these latter tools under an ESA Section 6 grant, all with the purpose to provide proactive measures and guidelines in support of consistent and coordinated rare plant management throughout New Mexico.

Eriogonum gypsophilum, a USFWS Threatened and NM state Endangered species that grows alongside oil and gas development in Southeast New Mexico. Photograph by Ben R. Grady.

During the Scorecard presentation’s section on measuring/representing threats, the speaker displayed a map of potential oil and gas extraction threats to rare plants. It portrayed a giant blob of yellow, black and blue risks in the Southeast corner of New Mexico, encompassing the majority of the lands that my BLM office stewards.

The Permian Basin shown here corresponds with the map of of oil and gas extraction threats that was presented in the NMRPTC meeting.

Working to safeguard native plants and habitats against the threats this blob poses will be a major focus of my work here.

Tiny Animals

Now that our seed collection season here at the BLM state office in Santa Fe is done, I can look back on our field season as a whole. And it has been excellent! Aside from learning a new flora, becoming familiar with a new landscape and new people, and collecting a massive quantity of wild seeds — I have also enjoyed the many casual and surprising encounters that happen while being outside. While my first focus is definitely plants, I also love tiny animals (bugs, macroinvertebrates, insects, arthropods; whatever category they are all tiny animals to me!). I don’t know if I will ever study them seriously or in detail, but I do love to notice their variety.

Following is a selection of the most surprising and fantastic tiny animals I was privileged to encounter while collecting seeds this summer and fall.

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An enormous grasshopper at El Malpais National Monument

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Somebody very strange at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

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A lady beetle with beautiful and interesting patterning at El Malpais National Monument

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Lady beetles exhibiting some interesting behavior — packing themselves tightly into a Thermopsis montana pod! (in the Santa Fe mountains)

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More interesting behavior by lady beetles — clustering themselves in very large groups (in the Sandia mountains)

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A delicate, elegant stick bug at the Quivira Coalition’s Red Canyon Ranch

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Mating monarchs at the Springs Preserve (Las Vegas, NV) butterfly habitat

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An excellent black and yellow garden spider near Socorro, NM

Laura Holloway
Santa Fe (New Mexico State Office), BLM

Portland, Santa Fe, Chicago, and Santa Fe

The month of June has been full of variety for me. I left my Portland, OR home in the mossy, forested Pacific Northwest on the last day of May, and began a 1900 mile driving adventure to the desert southwest. After a refreshing soak at Summer Lake hot springs, a stunningly beautiful stay in the Ruby Mountains, crossing the Great Salt Lake desert, and a slow and reflective drive through the Four Corners area, the adobe town of Santa Fe and the southernmost Rockies greeted me with thunder and lightning.

bladderpod

Our first opportunistic seed collection was from a small mustard yet to be identified to species

I had only a week to adjust to a new climate, landscape, and people before flying to the midwestern city of Chicago for the CLM training. Between sessions, we had the opportunity to explore the Chicago Botanic Garden in its entirety. My favorite area was the arid greenhouse, letting me know that my tugging desire to live and work in the southwest was well-founded, and giving me the opportunity to meet dry-adapted carbon-fixers from all around the earth.

cactus flower

Cactus flower at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Back in my new home of Santa Fe, I joined with a large and diverse group of people for our regional training. A fellow CLM intern, an ACE (American Conservation Experience) intern, and I will be working closely with interns and employees from the IAE’s (Institute for Applied Ecology) Southwest Program. To begin our summer together, we camped in the Valles Caldera, a dormant, enormous, and beautiful volcano in the Jemez Mountains. With the help of Steve Buckley (National Park Service botanist), we sharpened our botanical skills and began to learn New Mexico’s flora.

Tsankawi, New Mexico

New Mexican beauty, Tsankawi ruins. A short hike break on our drive back from training at Valles Caldera.

After several weeks of travel and training, I am looking forward to a summer and fall spent exploring New Mexico, collecting seed from plants and places I have yet to meet, and honing my botanical skills!

Laura Holloway

Santa Fe (New Mexico State Office), BLM