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NRI - NM Findings

NRI LogoNew Mexico NRI Findings

A summary of natural resource trends in New Mexico between 1982 and 1997

General Findings

  • New Mexico had about 50 million acres of nonfederal rural land in 1997. 80% of it is rangeland, 4% cropland, 11% forestland, and 5% other.
  • 1997 cropland acreage totaled more than 1.8 million acres. Cropland decreased by 537,000 acres between 1982 and 1997. Much of this decrease is attributed to urban development and acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.
  • Nearly 125,000 cropland acres are considered "prime farmland." Prime farmland has the best combination of physical and chemical properties for producing food, feed, forage, fiber and oilseed crops and are also available for these uses.
  • Forty-six  (46) percent of New Mexico's total cropland is irrigated.
  • New Mexico  ranks 8th among states for the most federal land. In 1997, nonfederal land totaled 51,223,500 acres. Of these acres, 2 percent or 1,152,700 acres were considered developed.
  • Federal land totaled 26,448,500 acres. This represents 34 percent of the land area of  New Mexico.

Federal and Private Land:

Like many states in the west, New Mexico has a very significant amount of federally owned land. Private landowners and local state and tribal governments have the responsibility for conservation on 66 percent of the state.

Nonfederal land is predominantly rural and supports a variety of land-based industries. Proper management of these lands is critical to the overall health of the State's natural resources.

Soil Erosion:

What’s the story on soil erosion? Farmers and ranchers focused on slowing erosion on our most susceptible soils in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Those efforts have paid off.

Controlling erosion not only sustains the long-term productivity of the land, but also affects the amount of soil, pesticides, fertilizer, and other substances that move into the Nation’s waters.

  • Sheet and rill erosion on cropland decreased about 30% between 1982 and 1997.
  • Wind erosion on cropland decreased about 20% between 1982 and 1997. Much of that reduction in erosion can be attributed to conservation practices and associated management required to meet conservation provisions as per the 1985 and 1990 Farm Bills. Most plans were fully implemented by 1994.
  • Soil erosion information is available on a national and Farmland Production Region (New Mexico is in the Mountain region) for 1982 through 2007.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and erosion control in New Mexico's cropland. CRP is a federal program established under the Food Security Act of 1985 to assist private landowners to convert highly erodible cropland to vegetative/grass cover for 10 years.

The Conservation Reserve Program:

  • Reduces soil erosion
  • Protects the Nation’s ability to produce food and fiber
  • Reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes
  • Improves water quality
  • establishes wildlife habitat
  • and enhances forest and wetland resources.

It encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as:

  • Grasses
  • Wildlife plantings
  • Trees
  • Filter strips
  • Or riparian buffers.

Farmers receive an annual rental payment for the term of the multiyear contract. Cost sharing is provided to establish the vegetative cover practices.

 The erosion rate of 17.5 in 1987 shows the high level of erosion on Cropland recently entered into the program. This land had not yet been established to grass. As is apparent from the data table, Wind Erosion rates on CRP land dropped dramatically after being in the program for several years. The decrease from 17.5 in 1987 to 2.4 in 1997 is a remarkable 86% erosion drop on CRP land.