Las Cruces – Transportation Secretary Gary L.J. Gir n announced today that the Department will halt further cottonwood tree removals along Interstate 10.
After discussion with governing agencies from city, county and law enforcement to improve safety and environmental issues, the Department has agreed to trim and install guardrails around existing trees along the north side of the highway as a safety measure for both the trees and motorists, remove overgrown brush and non natives, and plant 40 new Cottonwood trees in another location that will not be subjected to the state right of way.
"The safety of the traveling public is our number one priority," said Transportation Secretary Gary L.J. Gir n. "By keeping as many Cottonwoods as possible and planting new ones in a reasonable distance from the interstate to maintain the safety of the motorists, I believe we have come up with a solution that will satisfy all parties.
"Being fully aware that the Cottonwood is crucial to the riparian zones and ecosystems of New Mexico, I believe that this compromise will help ensure the future viability of this indigenous tree."
"I am always open to working with community representatives and the general public within my district whenever they raise concerns," said District One Transportation Commissioner John Hummer. "I am happy to see the collaboration between the public, state and non-governmental agencies result in a positive outcome."
The highway department began the tree- and brush-clearing project along the north and south sides of the interstate, between the Rio Grande and Motel Boulevard on May 5. After concerns were raised by the community, the Department agreed to re-evaluate the removal in late June.
Working with local government agencies, representatives from New Mexico State University's Agricultural Extension Service and the Southwest Environmental Center, the Department devised a solution. The Southwest Environmental Center will make recommendations on the 40 new trees that will be planted, and the NMDOT will be coordinating with a representative from NMSU on the trimming of the existing Cottonwoods to ensure the lifespan and future growth of the trees.
A public involvement meeting will be scheduled to further discuss aspects of this project including the timeline and scope of work.