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EPA Administrator Visits Pueblo Cultural Center, Restoration Project

Release Date: 10/28/2004
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

     In support of National American Indian Heritage Month in November and water quality improvement, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt visited the Pueblo Cultural Center and the Rio Grande Riparian Restoration Project in Albuquerque, N.M.  Sandia Pueblo, the New Mexico Environment Department, EPA and others are working together to restore approximately 100 acres of riparian and wetland habitat along the Rio Grande.

     The Rio Grande is an important agricultural and cultural resource for many local American Indian communities.  However, much of the Rio Grande bosque (river forest) has been invaded by non-native plant species, particularly Siberian elm, salt cedar, Russian olive and Tree of Heaven.  These species can crowd out native species, limiting habitat for animals such as the endangered willow flycatcher.  Non-native plants often use more water than natives, and some, like the salt cedar, increase the salinity of the river.  Non-native species may also create a serious fire hazard by providing a fuel ladder from the ground to the tree canopy.

     Sandia Pueblo is working to remove invasive species along the river and in several natural surface water ponds on its lands, and replanting native grasses, cottonwoods and willows.  Surface water ponds and other wetlands help slow the flow of water, retaining sediment, improving water clarity, storing floodwaters, and acting as nurseries for many forms of wildlife.  Shade from native trees helps cool the water, reducing evaporation and providing better habitat for fish such as the endangered silvery minnow.  

     Sandia is also conducting monitoring to increase its understanding of water quality and impacts on the river and its riparian habitat, so that it can ensure its restoration efforts will last.

     River corridor and wetland restoration is an integral part of a broad, watershed-based approach for achieving federal, state, tribal and local water resource goals.  More information about restoration is available at