N.M. awarded 2 new wildlife refuges
Written byLAURA PETERSON, E&E
The Obama administration is dedicating two new national wildlife refuges in New Mexico today.
Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque is now the 559th unit of the federal refuge system and the first urban refuge in the Southwest.
And this afternoon, more than 4,200 acres donated by the Thaw Charitable Trust near Mora will become the Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.
"Today we celebrate two new jewels in the National Wildlife Refuge System -- Valle de Oro, an urban oasis for people and wildlife just five miles from downtown Albuquerque, and Rio Mora, which will serve as an anchor for cooperative conservation efforts in the Rio Mora watershed," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
Valle de Oro is a former dairy and hay farm in the heart of the Middle Rio Grande Valley (Land Letter, Sept. 29, 2011). Protecting that tract will provide recreational opportunities within a 30-minute drive for half the state's population and protect a key stopover for migrating sandhill cranes and snow geese.
The Fish and Wildlife Service plans to work with partners to restore native Bosque forest on the refuge.
The agency partnered with several other organizations to acquire 390 acres of the 570-acre parcel. Partners in the $6 million deal include Bernalillo County, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Groups will work to raise funds to purchase the remaining land.
The Rio Mora refuge comprises the Wind River Ranch, which is in the transition zone between the Great Plains and the Southern Rocky Mountains. The Mora River flows through the center of the refuge in a 250-to-300-feet-deep canyon.
"The transfer of Wind River Ranch to the ownership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seems the perfect solution for this strategically located piece of land and its important stretch of the Mora River," said Eugene Thaw, who with his wife, Clare, bought the ranch in 1980 to protect the landscape.
"We hope that this transfer will serve as the catalyst for a new era in range management, wildlife studies and sustainable agriculture for this whole area of the Southwest," Thaw added.