Noted as one of the most committed landowners to protecting wildlife, habitat, and agricultural lands within the Rio Grande corridor, Hank Taliaferro was presented the 2018 IWJV Private Landowner Conservation Champion Award while hosting a partner field tour on his property in central New Mexico on November 6, 2019.
Hank started La Joya Farms by purchasing 108 acres of irrigated farmland and riparian forest near the town of La Joya and in the vicinity of the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and the La Joya and Bernardo Waterfowl Management Areas (WMA). Hank’s vision was to find the balance between sustaining his farm financially while simultaneously protecting the agricultural acreage and enhancing riparian wetlands and buffers for the benefit of the hundreds of bird species that depend on it, including the federally endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. To achieve these goals, he has worked with local partners on a wildlife management plan and conservation easements to protect the land and water from development in perpetuity.
The impacts of Hank’s efforts have extended beyond the boundaries of his property. Because of his generosity and authentic desire to help, he has been welcomed into the La Joya community and has become a central figure. His actions have demonstrated that he is someone who shares and will help preserve the traditional values of this Hispanic farming community. As a result, Hank’s farm has grown to become the 550-acre La Joya Farms, helping preserve the traditional agricultural lands and riparian wetlands of La Joya—a benefit to both the birds and the community.
Conservation easements for La Joya Farms, which were important components in three standard North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants for the Rio Grande Corridor, helped to preserve other important private lands within the complex of federal and state lands nearby. This helps keep important migratory habitat intact and protected from the fragmentation of development. Additionally, the protected acres and donated value of Hank’s conservation easements acquired through NAWCA have further-reaching impacts, having helped fund: the acquisition and restoration of the 570-acre Valle de Oro NWR; the enhancement and restoration of 1,999 acres of riparian and palustrine wetlands at Bosque del Apache NWR; and the enhancement of 600 acres of wetlands at the La Joya WMA youth hunting area.
Without Hank’s vision, commitment, and partnership, it is unlikely that these funds would have been awarded to protect the land and water of La Joya Farms in perpetuity and enhance and restore 3,169 acres of neighboring state and federal wetlands. The IWJV is pleased to honor Hank for his contributions to natural resource conservation and management in the Intermountain West in alignment with the goals, objectives, and priorities of the IWJV, and as a community-based conservation leader who helps to promote conservation at multiple scales.
Hank was nominated for this award by Alan Hamilton, New Mexico Wetlands Coordinator for Ducks Unlimited.