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Assessment of soil and water resources in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico

February 21, 2020

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (Monument) in southern New Mexico was established in 2014. Given anticipated future demands in the Monument for recreation, livestock grazing, and maintenance of rights-of-way (for example, pipelines and powerlines), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) needs a better understanding of the current soil and water resources and how infrastructure improvements could affect these resources and the watershed. Specifically, the BLM is concerned with infiltration and erosion and their relations to existing or planned infrastructure, such as roads, campgrounds, location of livestock grazing, and rights-of-way. Alternatives to the current land-use conditions, land-management practices, and infrastructure will be assessed by BLM to best protect Monument resources. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the BLM, conducted a study to assess the soil and water resources within the Monument to provide an inventory and compilation of natural-resource information needed by resource managers for the BLM’s land-use planning process for this new national monument. The overall objectives of this study were to (1) compile and interpret existing soil- and water-resource data for the Monument and (2) provide a basic assessment of the surface hydrological effects of selected alternatives to current land use and infrastructure. Data were compiled by using geographic information system software and evaluated for hydrologic and landscape properties that influence infiltration, runoff, and erosion. The effects of changing vegetation were simulated by using different scenarios in the Rangeland Hydrology and Erosion Model. Results of this model indicate areas where soil loss or runoff may occur.