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River Stewardship Program

The Rio Puerco Alliance (RPA) has been working highly collaboratively - with community expertise and priorities at the forefront - with local partners and organizations, such as the Ojo Encino (Chapter in Eastern Navajo Nation) Farmers and Ranchers Committee to restore the riparian areas along Torreon Wash in the Eastern Navajo Nation in Northern New Mexico and its tributaries, San Isidro Wash, Penistaja Arroyo, and Ojo Encino Wash. We have worked in a 40-square mile area, planting thousands of cottonwoods, willows, and riparian shrubs, and doing erosion and headcut control. Our goal has been the establishment of proper native species, which contributes to keeping soils, banks, and floodplains in place and functioning properly. In the past, we have had great success, with approximately 75% of our plantings thriving. In our current project with the New Mexico Environment Department's River Stewardship Program, we are adapting our planting schedule and methods to ensure our plantings and erosion structures continue to be successful in the face of a hotter and drier climate. 


We have worked for the past three years with the New Mexico Environment Department's River Stewards Program to plant and install erosion control structures in many other areas. Because the Arroyo Chico sub-watershed contributes the most sediment to the Rio Puerco, and thus to the Rio Grande, it would be a positive step for all of New Mexico to make this area more resilient and less erosive. 


In this project, we work with River Source, the Ojo Encino Farmers and Ranchers Committee, Hasbídító (a Diné organization in the Tri-Chapter area of the Eastern Navajo Nation), West Construction (a wholly owned  Diné business), community members, the Navajo Summer Youth Program we have facilitated with partners for more than a decade, and others to implement our watershed restoration and riparian planting programs to address the changing climate and to try to ensure that our work is successful even during periods of extreme drought. We are always looking for ways to increase our project's sustainability by securing tools usable by community members year-round (including potentially setting up a tool lending library), supporting outreach efforts to scale our restoration projects to additional Navajo Nation Chapters, acquiring tools and supplies for local partners to grow and distribute their own restoration vegetation, provide pay and salaries for additional project management staff hired in the local community, increase flexibility of the project so we can plant riparian vegetation in the spring and fall, increasing the plantings' likelihood of success, and more.

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