New Mexico Rangeland Restoration

The grassland restoration project at the Painted Pony Resort continues to bear fruit.  In many areas the topsoil is completely removed due to poor range management techniques in the past and as a result large swaths of landscape are completely barren of vegetation leading to additional erosion problems.

These eroded areas are generally surrounded by terracettes, individual plants or low woody shrubs which hold topsoil and sit up to 18" above the surrounding subsoil.  While observing these naturally occurring terracettes and noting how the plants hold the topsoil an artificial terracette was found.  This artificial terracette was the result of several pieces of hog fence left laying on the ground.  The mesh work held the top soil, creating a micro habitat for new plant growth.  The plants and mesh work would also catch additional windblown seeds and soils continuing the process of topsoil regeneration.  In an attempt to replicate this process an experiment in topsoil restoration was started.  The first treatment utilized weeds pulled around the estate and this material was laid in widely spaced rows perpendicular to the dip, to catch water, or if the ground was level, perpendicular to the prevailing winds.  With the arrival of the monsoons new grass has sprouted along these test barriers and additional soil has accumulated.  The placement of biological material in rows on the landscape creates not only a micro habitat for new plant growth but also slows water running across the landscape decreasing soil loss and in combination with the seed reservoir will help heal the landscape naturally and continue to restore the landscape to its' original condition.

Untreated state land showing soil movement and little grass.

An artificial terracette of hog fencing.
Black lines denote new growth along test topsoil barriers.
A close up of new grass growth along one topsoil test barrier.  Note the accumulation of soil around the line of grass.


  1. Thank you. I already have started gathering photographs of topsoil barriers built from mesquite which was the next experiment.

  2. very clever to make these artificial terracettes. That's a new vocabulary word for me, also!

  3. Thank you. It was a matter of desperation really. Trying to come up with methods to slow the water, minimize erosion, and create areas for new grass on barren ground was the goal. I have tried other methods like spreading plant waste around but it all blew (or washed away). The barriers have clearly produced the best results.