Factors that Influence Species and Habitats

Over the past century, New Mexico's landscapes have changed dramatically. Natural flows of aquatic systems have been altered by human development and dams. Terrestrial ecosystems have been altered by development and other human activities. All of these changes have influenced New Mexico's wildlife.

NMDGF recognizes that many human activities across today's landscapes have the potential to be either beneficial or detrimental to wildlife. Many factors that influence New Mexico landscapes are based on legal and accepted practices. It is not the intent of the CWCS to debate the benefits and detriments of historical activities on New Mexico's landscapes. Our intent is to evaluate landscapes as they exist today and develop strategies on how best to make meaningful improvements to benefit species of greatest conservation need. At times, we reference historic land management practices, as these practices have helped shape today's landscapes. In doing so, we do not intend to imply that historic land management practices still occur today.

Our assessment of factors that influence species or habitats is primarily focused at the habitat scale, as these factors directly affect wildlife communities and SGCN populations. A description of the process used for this assessment and evaluation of factors that influence habitats can be found in the Approach chapter. We also identify individual factors that most influence the persistence of each SGCN, based on literature review and professional knowledge. We provide this information in Appendix I. Given that most of the species-specific factors that influence the long-term persistence of SGCN are habitat conversion, loss, and degradation, fire (burning and suppression), and improper grazing practices, we do not discuss species-specific factors separately from habitat factors. We also provide a more spatially explicit discussion on the factors that adversely influence SGCN in ecoregions and habitat types in the Assessments and Strategies for SGCN and Key Habitats chapter.

In our discussion of factors that influence species and habitats, we primarily discuss those practices that are harmful to wildlife at certain levels of use or extent. It should be understood that it is the manner in which a human activity or practice is conducted that determines if it has a negative or positive effect on wildlife populations. For example, livestock grazing can be a valuable tool to improve wildlife habitat. However, if livestock grazing is applied improperly, it can be detrimental to plant communities and wildlife.

Our list of potential factors that may influence habitats in New Mexico is based on some guidelines provided by Salafsky et al. (2003) for describing categories and factors and the proceeding discussion is primarily organized by these categories and individual factors.