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Transforming an old Albuquerque dairy into a sanctuary for birds, wildlife, and people

A partnership between Audubon New Mexico, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, and the Coca-Cola Foundation aim to restore valuable habitat in the historic Rio Grande Floodplain

Take out a map and smooth the edges and folds in front of you. You will quickly discover that capital cities, worthy destinations, and historical landmarks tend to cluster around the thin blue lines snaking throughout a flat paper world. Humans have established their communities around waterways for millennia as demonstrated in New Mexico’s history, culture, and the peace residents feel sitting on riverbanks or floating under cottonwoods. In New Mexico, the importance of rivers is apparent in our state especially the Middle Rio Grande Basin. It not only contains much of the state’s population (over 1 million to the state’s 2.088 million), but it is a uniquely biodiverse and ecologically important region for hundreds of plants and animals. We are in the Central Flyway, a migratory bird corridor that spans the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and our home in the arid Southwest. During spring and fall, over 60% of the states 544 bird species follow the lush green ribbon of habitat nourished by the Rio Grande as it flows through the Middle Rio Grande Basin on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. These birds can be seen in thrilling numbers foraging and roosting at iconic hotspots like Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the Rio Grande Nature Center and, as habitat restoration efforts increase, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge.

Thanks to a generous grant from Coca-Cola through the Replenish program, Audubon New Mexico is working in partnership with Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge to restore and enhance wetland, riparian, and upland ecosystems in the Middle Rio Grande floodplain for birds, wildlife, and the communities that love them. The refuge is located five miles south of downtown Albuquerque on 570 acres formerly managed as Prices’ Dairy and serves as important stopover habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl in the Central Flyway. The Rio Grande, adjacent to the site, historically flooded the grounds creating seasonal wetlands that supported native plants and provided habitat where birds could forage and rest. Today, more than 80% of wetlands have been lost to development and degradation, but working together, we have an opportunity to bring a portion of it back. Please join us in reviving and caring for this valuable landscape by volunteering at our July 28 restoration day.   

The day will begin with a guided bird walk with Central New Mexico Audubon Society followed by getting our hands dirty by planting native shrubs and grasses. The event will end with a freshwater education overview that will engage volunteers in the history of the Middle Rio Grande and how Audubon New Mexico, Valle de Oro NWR, and others plan to work together to protect it. Audubon New Mexico has been leading Rio Grande conservation solutions for over 15 years, focusing on the Middle Rio Grande Basin through precedent-setting water transactions for environmental flows and other innovative methods that support restoration and resiliency in the floodplain. The future of our Rio Grande’s societal-ecologic ecosystem is greatly dependent on what we do in the next decade. As a member of the public, you can affect the health and function of sensitive ecosystems by volunteering HERE to help build a wildlife sanctuary in the most developed region of New Mexico.

Audubon is the leader in the state on innovative programs to restore nature’s share of water. In partnership with irrigation districts, tribal nations, municipalities and senior water users, Audubon has implemented first-of-its-kind voluntary water transfers and modernized water policies to restore vibrant ribbons of river habitat benefiting more than one hundred miles along the Rio Grande and its tributaries. Combined with transforming habitat along the river through volunteer-based restoration projects, we seek to address key water-related challenges by advancing balanced solutions to water use in New Mexico securing a greater share of water for birds, other wildlife, and the people and communities that depend on them. 

Working with community partners in the South Valley, Valle de Oro NWR was established in 2012 as the first urban refuge in the Southwest. An Environmental Justice Plan, the first in the country, guides the refuge’s management ethic by integrating environmental and economic justice into daily practice as the land is restored for wildlife and developed as an educational and recreational resource for the community. Because collaboration is necessary to our work, Audubon New Mexico is happy to count Valle de Oro NWR as a meaningful ally in our conservation. Projects like this Coca-Cola supported partnership ensure that important natural spaces are protected from future development and reinvigorated where both wildlife and people are priorities.


How you can help, right now

Audubon Arizona and Audubon New Mexico have joined forces to become Audubon Southwest.