Technical and financial resources are available to help landowners and producers restore playa hydrology by filling pits, removing sediment, and planting grass buffers. We can help you identify funding sources to help with restoration costs and provide income when taking the playa and surrounding land out of production, such as the programs listed below. Contact us to schedule a visit and discuss which options may work for you.

If the playa is located in cropland, planting a native grass and forb buffer around the playa can slow sediment accumulation and provide habitat for grassland birds and other wildlife. For playas located in rangeland, installing a fence around the playa will allow native grass and wetland plants to grow, providing better grazing and wildlife habitat and slowing soil erosion.

Program Quick Links

New Mexico Department of Game & Fish Playa Conservation Program

Private landowners can receive financial and technical assistance to restore the hydrological function of and modify water flow to their playas through the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDGF). The NMDGF Playa Conservation Program is designed to restore playas and surrounding grass buffers through sediment removal, buffer planting, pit filling, channel remediation, and other modifications such as berms that allow water to flow into playas. The program covers 100% of the restoration costs (determined at time of the site visit) with the agreement that the playa will not be farmed for 20 years. Landowners receive a one-time reimbursement payment for the restoration costs, which is administered through Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) and Central Curry Soil and Water Conservation District. There are also opportunities for landowners to receive access payments, limited liability protection, and other benefits through the NMDGF Open Gate Program which allows public access for hunting, fishing, or trapping.

Contact: Christopher Rustay, PLJV Conservation Delivery Leader, 505-414-0342 or Austin Teague, NMDGF Regional Wildlife Biologist, 575-624-6135

USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), administered by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), provides eligible landowners with technical and financial assistance to address resource concerns on their land by implementing conservation plans. Healthy playas help support national EQIP goals and landscape initiatives by improving water quality, conserving groundwater resources, and providing important wildlife habitat. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, NRCS establishes submission deadline dates for consideration in upcoming evaluation periods, which is typically in December for New Mexico. The following EQIP practices can help farmers and ranchers restore or enhance playas by removing excess sediment, planting grass buffers, restoring hydrology through filling pits and trenches, and improving vegetation with prescribed grazing, alternative water development, and access control. Talk to your local Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist to learn how EQIP can be used to meet your individual goals for your playa.

    • Remove Sediment: (657) Wetland Restoration
    • Improve Vegetation: (657) Wetland Restoration, (528) Prescribed Grazing, (614) Watering Facility, (550) Range Planting, (340) Cover Crop, (382) Fence, (472) Access Control, or (516) Livestock Pipeline
    • Plant Buffers: (393) Filter Strip, (550) Range Planting, or (340) Cover Crop
    • Restore Hydrology: (657) Wetland Restoration, (342) Critical Area Seeding, (412) Grassed Waterway, or (643) Rare and Declining Habitats

Contact: NRCS District Conservationist for your county

USDA Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), administered by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is similar to EQIP (described above) except the contracts are for five years and annual management payments are provided in addition to the practice establishment payment. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, NRCS establishes submission deadline dates for consideration in upcoming evaluation periods. Many of the EQIP practices can be used under this program to restore or enhance playas by removing excess sediment, planting grass buffers, restoring hydrology through filling pits and trenches, and improving vegetation with prescribed grazing, alternative water development, and access control. Talk to your local Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist to learn how CSP can be used with EQIP for playa restoration and other conservation objectives on the agricultural operation.

    • Remove Sediment: (643) Rare and Declining Habitats
    • Improve Vegetation:  (528) Prescribed Grazing, (614) Watering Facility, (550) Range Planting, (340) Cover Crop, (382) Fence, (472) Access Control, or (516) Livestock Pipeline
    • Plant Buffers: (393) Filter Strip, (550) Range Planting, or (340) Cover Crop
    • Restore Hydrology: (342) Critical Area Planting, (412) Grassed Waterway, or (643) Rare and Declining Habitats

Contact: NRCS District Conservationist for your county

Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) through the USDA Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

Through the most recent farm bill, the federal government has allocated millions of dollars for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) which conserve wetlands, including playas, for 30 years or in perpetuity. These easements eliminate the threat of development to enrolled acres. Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted playas that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. Applications are prioritized based on the potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The enrollment process includes a wetland reserve restoration easement plan to restore, protect, and enhance the playa’s functions and values. Grazing is not allowed unless a grazing plan approved by NRCS is followed. Landowners may apply at any time through their local USDA Service Center.

Permanent Easements – Permanent easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. The landowner receives 100% of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and 75-100% of the restoration costs.

30-year Easements – These easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, the landowner receives 50-75% of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and between 50-75% of the restoration costs.

For wetland reserve easements, all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance are paid by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. In New Mexico the easement value is determined as 90% of the appraised market value, but landowner donations are accepted and in some cases a $5,000 per acre cap applies.

Contact: NRCS District Conservationist for your county

USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

The Conservation Reserve Program pays a yearly rental payment in exchange for farmers removing environmentally sensitive land, including playas, from agricultural production and planting a native grass and forb mix. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and develop wildlife habitat. Enrolling in CRP may be a good option for landowners who have fields that contain multiple playas or a large number of wetland acres. This program is only available during times of open enrollment. Contracts are between 10 and 15 years, with the annual rental payment based on soil types. CRP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency.

USDA Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP)

There are two CCRP practices that apply to playas within New Mexico. This program differs from the general CRP program in that applicants can enroll their acres at any time. Offers are automatically accepted, provided the land and producer meet certain eligibility requirements and the enrollment levels do not exceed the statutory cap. Under CCRP, there are national initiatives as well as state and regional initiatives that address high-priority wildlife objectives. CCRP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency.

CP23A – Wetland Restoration

This program is for wetlands not in the 100-year floodplain, including playas, that have been converted to agricultural uses. No wetland determination is required. Upland acres around the playa can also be included as a buffer for soil erosion protection and water quality enhancement, as well as habitat for a variety of wildlife, especially waterfowl, upland game birds, and songbirds. An upland buffer with a maximum 4:1 ratio may be enrolled. For instance, the maximum 4:1 ratio can be used to help square up the remaining crop field around playas that are 20 acres or less. There is a sign-up incentive of $180 per acre and a 20% incentive payment over the average soil rental rate. Mid-contract management practices to keep the cover healthy are required. Enrolled playas are not eligible for managed haying and grazing.

CP 27/28 – Farmable Wetlands and Buffers

This program is for wetlands not in the 100-year floodplain, including playas, that are 10 acres or less and have been converted to agricultural uses. A jurisdictional wetland determination is required. To protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat, the associated upland buffer (of 30-150 ft. or up to three times the wetland acres) must also be enrolled. For playas, a maximum of 50 acres may be enrolled. There is a sign-up incentive of $180 per acre and a 20% incentive payment over the weighted average soil rental rate. Mid-contract management practices to keep the cover healthy will be required.

Contact: FSA County Executive Director for your county

USFWS Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is a voluntary partnership program that provides technical and financial assistance to landowners to improve fish and wildlife habitats for Federal trust species (e.g., threatened, endangered, and candidate species, migratory birds, and other declining species). The program helps bring landowners and other partners together on restoration projects to benefit from their expertise. In New Mexico, private landowners generally provide 25 percent or more of the cost-share funding and/or in-kind services (labor, maintenance, and materials). One-to-one cost share often is achieved by partnering with a host of nationally based and local partners with wildlife habitat funding programs and technical expertise.

Contact: Gwen Kolb, State Coordinator, 505-761-4711