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New Jornada Experimental Range Building On Track For January Opening

LAS CRUCES–Kris Havstad can't wait for Christmas. The supervisory scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces anticipates the gift of space during the holidays.


After working from mobile trailers on the western edge of New Mexico State University, Havstad and his staff of 50 will be preparing to move into a new $8 million headquarters building on the main university campus.

"We should be able to move in early January," Havstad said, clearly happy with the thought of more elbow room. "We're trying to time it, if possible, between the semester break, and not disrupt campus activities."

Construction on the California mission-style facility, which features a multilevel tileroof, began in August 2000. Las Cruces-based Wooten Construction Co. scheduled 18 months for the project, but hopes to finish by December.

The 29,000-square-foot building, dedicated to research about arid lands, will house six laboratories, a small conference area and offices. The interior features a three-story atrium that gives the building a spacious feeling.

The exterior is largely complete, and interior case work is well underway with some flooring and laboratory construction still to come. Additional funding has been approved by Congress to complete the interior and equip the building.

"Our program has grown tremendously in the last handful of years because of strong support from the people of New Mexico, and the New Mexico State University faculty and administration," Havstad said.

Federal funding for the project was secured by U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen, along with U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici and other members of New Mexico's congressional delegation.

Havstad said one of the bright spots of the move is being directly on campus. "The proximity right there–within what is now a four-building complex associated with the College of Agriculture and Home Economics–is tremendous."

Two-thirds of the staff are federal employees and about one-third are NMSU staff, supported mostly by grant programs. In addition, graduate students from the university collaborate on a number of research projects, primarily with NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics. Scientists with the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service will also work in the new building.

The Jornada Experimental Range, a branch of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, was established in 1912 to study management and remediation or repair of desert rangelands. The Jornada includes some 193,000 acres, an area about the size of New York City.

"It's a tremendous scientific resource that you really don't find anywhere else around the globe," Havstad said of the only ARS location in New Mexico. "And in that sense, I think the association with New Mexico State University is quite unique."