Non-Consumptive Biological Uses
Habitat disturbances related to off-road vehicle use, military activities, and recreational use are a concern over most of New Mexico. The Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion, Arizona-New Mexico Mountains Ecoregion, and the Southern Shortgrass Prairie Ecoregion in particular have been subjected to significant habitat alterations as a result of non-consumptive biological use.
Recreational off-road vehicle use can be found across the entire state. There are several organized events held each year in Doña Ana, Socorro, Otero, Eddy, Chaves, and San Juan counties. The New Mexico Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), 2004-2009 identified a moderately increasing trend in off-road vehicle use from 1996-2001 (Henkel and Fleming 2004). The specific effects of off-road vehicle use on New Mexico habitats are poorly understood. Off-road vehicle travel can cause damage to soils and vegetation (Holechek et al. 1998) and impact wildlife by destroying and fragmenting habitat, causing direct mortality of wildlife, or altered behavior through stress and disturbance (Busack and Bury 1974, Brattstrom and Bondello 1983). The Forest Service has published in the Federal Register two proposed rules pertaining to off-road vehicle use. The first designates routes and areas for motor vehicle use and the second petitions states for inventoried roadless areas. Both of these proposed rules would impact future ATV use on Forest Service lands in New Mexico. Other regulatory initiatives seek to improve ATV safety requirements and increase registration fees, with revenues targeted for the development of designated ATV trails and facilities.
Military and Borderland Security Activities
The Department of Defense (DoD) manages 4% of the land in New Mexico. White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is the largest DoD installation, covering approximately 2.2 million ac (0.9 million ha). It operates primarily for the support of research, development, testing, and evaluation of weapon and space systems, subsystems, and components. Other DoD installations in New Mexico contain sites for live bombing, air defense missile firing, mechanized brigade training exercises, battalion-size or smaller training exercises, ballistic missile testing, aircraft takeoff, landings and training courses, maintenance of fighter wing capabilities, and general military training exercises. While restricted access to many military lands provide substantial benefit to wildlife, military land uses also may destroy or fragment existing habitats.
Border security measures are being implemented throughout the New Mexico/Mexico borderlands region to intercept illegal drug shipments, illegal immigrants, and other unauthorized activities (US Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service 2000). Associated road building and traffic in the borderlands region causes additional habitat loss and fragmentation, reduces effective (usable) habitat for wildlife populations, increases road kill, poaching, illegal collecting of wildlife and general habitat destruction (Forman et al. 2003).
Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling, off-road vehicle use, rock climbing, camping, sightseeing, bird watching, and picnicking are popular recreational pursuits in New Mexico (Conner et al. 1990). The overall impact of these activities is not fully understood, nor is there a full understanding of how much recreational use can be tolerated before there is an adverse effect on wildlife or wildlife habitat. However, recreational activities are increasing and their potential effects on habitats and species should be considered in conservation planning (Conner et al. 1990, McClaran et al. 1992).