How Pittman-Robertson Funds Are Being Used for Playa Conservation

This past year, PLJV and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish have been working together to develop funding for playa conservation in eastern New Mexico and now have nearly a million dollars to dedicate to restoration efforts. This will provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, and help the City of Clovis and broader community to ensure a sustainable water future.

This next phase in the initiative is made possible by using Pittman-Robertson funds, which come from an excise tax on sport arms and ammunition, with a matching grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and a few other funding sources. Pittman-Robertson funds are administered to the states through the US Fish and Wildlife Service and are an excellent example of how hunters are funding habitat restoration.

“The collaborative effort with the Clovis community will allow landowners to benefit not only from increased wildlife species diversity and numbers on their property, but also from increased aquifer recharge,” said Elise Goldstein, Assistant Chief of the Wildlife Section at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “The partnership is resulting in the implementation of habitat restoration with numerous benefits and could not be possible without the enthusiasm and hard work of everyone involved.”

For several years, leaders in Clovis and Curry County have been working on multiple fronts to conserve and protect water, and these grants will provide more money and greater focus to allocate to playa conservation, benefiting not only the city but also other communities and landowners in eastern New Mexico.

“The Pittman-Robertson funds allow us to continue to support the City of Clovis in their water conservation efforts through playa restoration and to expand the playa work beyond Curry County,” said Christopher Rustay, PLJV Conservation Delivery Leader. “This will be one of the first concerted efforts to conserve playas in eastern New Mexico, with a full complement of playa restoration programs.”

The program will include incentives to producers to participate in playa conservation activities and to hopefully encourage more private landowners to restore playas on their land. The funding will also support outreach and other activities that make playa restoration possible, such as helping producers develop alternate water sources for grazing. 

With these funds, the partners expect to complete about 20 to 30 playa restorations. On average, it will cost about $20,000 to fill one pit, including potential archeological surveys, and closer to $35,000 when providing an alternate water source for livestock watering. More extensive restoration efforts, such as removing sediment, and planting buffers to reduce additional sedimentation, require larger investments. Payments will be made to landowners through the Central Curry Soil and Water Conservation District.

“It is exciting to see playas becoming an integral part of water conservation and wildlife restoration efforts,” Rustay said. “While the program was just finalized in October, one landowner has already signed up to fill pits in two of his playas, and the City of Clovis has also committed to restoring one of the playas they own.”

Additionally, the money has allowed PLJV and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to develop a larger partnership to tackle playa conservation by also working with Central Curry Soil and Water Conservation District, New Mexico State Lands Office and private landowners.

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Meanwhile, in Kansas: PLJV and other conservation partners in Kansas have been meeting with community leaders and producers to talk about how playas can be part of a solution to water challenges. Keep scrolling for even more information on this subject!

A closer look: Use PLJV’s interactive Playa Map to take a tour of the playas near Clovis.

Posted: November 18, 2019