Feature image projects

April 22, 2021.

WEST TEXAS NATIVE COTTONWOOD AND WILLOW TREE RESTORATION EL CARMEN LAND & CONSERVATION CO.

In December 2020, nearly 200 cottonwood and willow poles were harvested and transplanted to begin the restoration process at the Bishop Wetland in Presidio County, just west of the ECLCC.

The El Carmen Land and Conservation Co. (ECLCC), a private conservation area owned by CEMEX USA and Mr. Josiah Austin, is helping restore native trees along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an effort to revitalize the ecologically diverse Rio Grande Corridor in west Texas.

Historically, native cottonwoods and willow trees were found along the waterways of the Rio Grande Corridor in the Trans-Pecos Ecoregion. But over time, large numbers of the trees were cut in various locations along the corridor for use in historic mine supports and posts across the region. Flash flooding along the Rio Grande also contributed to the loss of many trees, and seedlings were trampled by domestic and wild livestock. Several years ago, ECLCC joined a program to reestablish the native cottonwoods and willows in the lower reaches of the Big Bend area of west Texas.

In 2018, ECLCC partnered with Big Bend National Park (BBNP), Rio Bravo Restoration Group and Rio Grande Joint Venture-Chihuahuan Desert Bird Area to establish a nursery for native cottonwoods and willows with the  objective to cut small limbs from mature trees, called pole cuttings, then transplant them to re-establish trees in other areas along the Rio Grande Corridor.

To begin the initiative, ECLCC received 4 Goddings willow poles and 35 Fremont cottonwood poles from Big Bend National Park in March 2018. Each pole cutting was roughly two inches in diameter and up to five feet long.  The poles were soaked for a week, then planted in a designated area for the ECLCC nursery. All the poles rooted, and with proper irrigation over two years, the poles began to grow into trees.

The new cottonwoods and willows from the nursery at ECLCC are now providing poles that can be planted in other areas along the Rio Grande. In December 2020, nearly 200 cottonwood and willow poles were harvested from the nursery and transplanted to begin the restoration process at the Bishop Wetland in Presidio County, just west of the ECLCC. The transplants were successful with 188 out of the 198 poles establishing roots.  In addition, the nursery at ECLCC is providing cover, nest sites and food sources (insects) for native and breeding songbirds and hawks. This sustainable project that can continue to give on a yearly basis while continuing to grow and provide habitat for birds and wildlife at the ECLCC.