Corridor Reconnecting Piece by Piece

Partners awarded $1 million for migratory bird habitat conservation. Photo by Sarah Keller of the Rio Grande near San Antonio, New Mexico. 

To advance the third phase of work, partners in the Rio Grande corridor in New Mexico have successfully secured grant funding from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to protect migratory bird habitat through public-private partnerships. The most recent award, announced in early September, brings the corridor another $1 million for the protection, restoration, and enhancement of approximately 1,900 acres of wetlands, riparian floodplain, and associated uplands on six proposed sites along the Middle Rio Grande.

The Rio Grande in New Mexico has suffered from significant wetland habitat losses and some of the most extreme drought conditions in the country. The grant funds recently received will address these challenges by building on the work of the two previous NAWCA grant awards in 2012 and 2014. Grant funds for Phase 3, combined with $2.5 million of match funds from partners on both public and private lands.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, pictured above, is receiving funding through this grant to enhance and restore acres critical to birds and other wildlife.

The majority of acres in this project fall within Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), an important refuge for wintering and migratory birds, and Valle de Oro NWR, the Southwest’s first urban NWR. In addition, projects on these refuges and neighboring private land comprise 4.8 river miles of wetlands that expand critical habitat for many species of migratory birds including the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and threatened Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Through NAWCA, a total of 1,267 acres of conservation easements on private lands have been acquired, helping to establish conservation easements as a viable option for the protection of the rural lifestyle of farmers, ranchers, and other landowners while protecting critical wildlife habitat within the Rio Grande corridor.

“Our ability to compete successfully for these highly competitive grants is due to the increasing national recognition of the Rio Grande as an important migratory, wintering and nesting corridor that supports over 200,000 waterfowl, 18,000 greater sandhill cranes and tens of thousands of other waterbirds and shorebirds,” said Alan Hamilton, currently under contract with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and Ducks Unlimited, “as well as the tremendous collaboration of public and private partners.”

Partnerships that cross cultural, jurisdictional, and geographic barriers are fundamental to successful landscape-level conservation initiatives in New Mexico. The range and diversity of partners involved in this conservation work in the corridor represent a shared responsibility for the protection and stewardship of the ecological health of the Rio Grande. Led by New Mexico Wildlife Federation, this project brings together 21 partners including local and municipal government, non-governmental organizations, and state and federal agencies, in addition to numerous individuals and private landowners involved in the on-the-ground work.

In an impressive record of success over the past 16 years in this region, more than 50 partners have joined together to secure $5 million in NAWCA Standard grants, matched by more than $12 million in partner funds. Combined, these funds have been used to conserve, protect, and restore nearly 10,000 acres of migratory bird habitat through public-private partnerships in the middle Rio Grande valley and the river corridor in New Mexico. 

Check out these stories from the 2017 Fall eNewsletter: