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Don't Trash That Slash! Reaping Value From NM's Forest Residuals

Don't Trash that Slash! was a collaborative project of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition (NMRC) to promote the value of creating compost and mulch from forest thinning projects. Through a grant from the U.S. Forest Service's Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, NMRC teamed with a dynamic group of organizations and industry experts to give forest and land managers the knowledge and access to resources to realize the value of composting and mulching chipped forest residuals.


The New Mexico Recycling Coalition (NMRC) managed this US Department of Agriculture Forest Service Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP) grant from August 2005 to July 2008.  The project increased awareness about the value of mulch and compost as a forest waste by-product and its application for erosion control and soil protection. Awareness regarding the value of mulch increased via numerous outreach and education efforts, including workshops, presentations, one-on-one consultations and demonstration projects. The project’s target audience consisted of forest managers and personnel, tribes,  forest thinning contractors, CFRP recipients, public land management agencies and forestry students and youth working in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) projects.


 To download a project summary report, please click on one of the following links:

*SummaryReport                                                                                                                           * Appendix I - dates, titles and locations of all classes and workshops conducted

* Appendix II - summary of workshop evaluations

* Appendix III - specific one-on-one outreach contacts

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* Appendix IV  - presentations and conferences attended   

* Appendix V - youth outreach contacts

* Appendix VI - copy of poster produced outlining ecohydrologic effects of wood mulch

* Appendix VI(b) - copy of poster produced outlining ecohydrologic benefits of wood mulch

*Appendix VII - Summary of final evaluation

*Appendix VIII - CFRP Grant advisory team

Mulch Applications Identified:

Through this grant, NMRC identified the following uses for mulch:

  • Erosion Control
    • At all application depths, woodchips have proven less erodible than straw as a surface mulch material, particularly on steep slopes (Meyer et al. 1972)
    • An untreated soil surface produces 50 times more sediment than a mulched surface (Demars et al., 2001)
  • Landscaping and Vegetation Establishment
    • Reduces runoff and improves infiltration as water has more time to seep in
    • Helps to maintain soil moisture between rainfall events
  • Project Mitigation
    • Reduces the visual and physical impacts of thinning project(s)
  • Lop and Scatter
    • This is a surface treatment similar to mulching with branches, in which the slash is manually distributed across the treated area without chipping or masticating to reduce the particle size.
  • Compost Creation
    • Wood chips are an excellent source of carbon for composting projects
  • Roadside Applications
  • Assists with re-vegetation and erosion control efforts


Monitoring the Effects of Wood Mulch Applications -

As part of the effort to promote the beneficial use of forest residuals, NMRC conducted monitoring to quantify the effects of wood mulch application on vegetation, soil moisture, and soil temperature in a variety of Southwestern landscapes. Soil moisture and temperature were measured continuously at the sites with in-situ sensors attached to data loggers. Monitoring locations were chosen based on implementation schedules, accessibility, and the relevance of the project and location. Sites were intended to represent areas most likely to receive similar treatments statewide. Four principal settings were identified for inclusion in the monitoring program; roadside, piņon-juniper, ponderosa, and invasive-dominated riparian. Four sites were established and equipment was installed during 2007. Permanent photo points were installed in conjunction with the monitoring equipment to provide visual documentation of changes at each site.  Table 2 denotes site activities for each monitoring site. In addition to the four monitoring sites, composting and erosion control activities were documented and evaluated at two demonstration sites. 



Elevated soil moisture under mulch at Carlito Springs, 3/19/07 to 5/9/07.  Depth of Mulch 2 is 4 cm and depth of Mulch 3 is 5 cm. Spikes in soil moisture indicate precipitation events. 




Detailed summaries of monitoring soil temperature, soil moisture and precipitation within mulched verses non-mulched areas can be download by clicking on one of the following links:

*Monitoring Information - Las Vegas Mixed Conifer Site 

*Monitoring Information - Santa Fe River Riparian Site

*Monitoring Information - NMDOT Roadside Site near Cerrillos

*Monitoring Information -Carlito Springs Pinon Juniper Site


Benefits of Creating Compost and Mulch

from Chipped Forest Residuals


*Less prescribed burn risk and associated air quality impact

*Conditions soil and controls erosion

*Promotes water retention and revegetation

*Promotes better water quality by controlling surface run-off pollution

*Creates value-added, sustainable product




Case Study in Compost and Mulch Application1: New Mexico Department of Transportation

Compost and mulch are incredibly valuable as an erosion control application and are currently being used in NM Department of Transportation (NMDOT) roadside reclamation and re-seeding projects, which presents a potentially large value-added market for forest residuals. Read on for an overview of compost and mulch applications by NMDOT in road construction projects.


2000: The first roadside reclamation site implementing composted mulch occurred at the northeast interchange quadrant of I-40 and I-25 in Albuquerque.  Subsequently three other 4,000 sq. ft. test sites were implemented near Santa Fe (Budagher’s exit of I-25), Encino and Carrizozo. In each case compost was applied with native grass seed and plant growth was successful.


2002-2003: Practically overnight, the Pine Bark Beetle infestation caused huge Pinon tree die-offs, generating large quantities of green-waste at northern New Mexico transfer stations and landfills. NMRC, NMED SWB, NMDOT, private compost businesses and municipal agencies worked together to establish a consistent market for the increased volumes of mulch and compost. Building on a compost reclamation program developed by the Texas Department of Transportation, NMED and NMDOT developed standards for mulch and compost applications on New Mexico highway projects.


2004 & 2005: Additional demonstration sites in Santa Fe on Highway 599 and along South Broadway in Albuquerque were completed successfully. NMDOT utilized compost on official roadside projects along US 70, I-40, and US 84/285, and will continue to specify and apply compost in upcoming roadside reclamation projects.


Case Study in Compost and Mulch Application 2: Rio Penasco (Mayhill) Fire near Ruidoso

Click here for photos of mulch application in a wildfire mitigation effort.


Compost Sock Wattle (Filter Socks) Vendors

Mesh netting or burlap socks filled with wood chips make excellent erosion control socks.  The following is a list of suppliers that will sell empty netting or wattles:


*Conwed Plastics                                                                        *MasterNet LTD

 530 Gregory Ave                                                                            3355 Olive Lane

 Roanoke, VA 24016                                                                      Minneapolis, MN 55447                                                   

 Emily Hurst - Distribution/Inside Sales Manager -                        1-763-473-3938 or 612-269-4545                                                          Bill Murphy -                                                                                                  

*Boddingtons Ltd                                                                   *Farber Bag & Supply Co (Burlap                                                        Suppliers) Blackwater Trading                                              1-800-553-9068

Tel 44-162-874200: Mobile 44-7980-017505                


                                                                                         *Silver Dollar Racing & Shavings

                                                                                                  Cody & Kathy Deines                                                                                                                           Route 1, Box 18B

                                                                                                  Maxwell, NM 87728

                                                                                         505-375-2636: Cell 505-447-0620



Additional Information

Please contact New Mexico Forest Industry Association for additional information about utilizing woody biomass for erosion control purposes at 505-986-9722 or


Resource Materials

*NMDOT Compost Vendor Procurement Process

*NMDOT Compost Specifications

*NMDOT Composted Mulch & Mulch Sock Specs from "Standard Specifications of Highway and Bridge Const."

*Compost Facilities

*Compost Testing Labs

*Grinder Rentals

Jerry Connolly: 505-929-1245

Rick Evans: 505-937-2741

Brent Racher: 505-937-5551

Tony Sanchez: 505-280-0358

Vermeer: 505-345-8787

VMS (Texas): 864-6605

*Professional Contacts

    Krista Bonfantine, Arid Land Innovation,, (505) 250-3629

   Jim Brooks, Soilutions, (505) 281-8425


Related Links

*Compost: Completing the Cycle - A project of the Texas Department of Transportation

*Sierra Contracting


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