New Mexico Acquires 188 Acres Along Rio Grande

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The New Mexico Game Commission has purchased 188 acres of property along the Rio Grande south of Belen in an ongoing effort to protect and improve the state's riparian zones.

The property was acquired through provisions of the Natural Lands Protection Act, which provides for joint acquisition of unique and ecologically significant lands in New Mexico. The $800,000 purchase used a special appropriation for land conservation requested by Governor Bill Richardson during the 2005 Legislature.

"We are committed to expanding New Mexico's open spaces for wildlife and recreation," Governor Richardson said. "With the help of partners such as the Trust for Public Land, we are able to protect these properties for generations to enjoy."

The Trust for Public Land initially acquired the property and assisted the Game Commission in completing the purchase for conservation purposes. Under the purchase agreement, the Commission owns 51 percent interest in the property. The Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District, which will be responsible for maintenance and upkeep at the property, owns 49 percent.

"The Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District is excited in participating with the State Game Commission in restoring wildlife habitat and providing opportunities to promote environmental education of the Rio Grande Bosque," District Chairman Charlie Sanchez said.

The property includes about 1.5 miles of Rio Grande frontage with potential to be restored as wildlife habitat for species including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and the Rio Grande silvery minnow. It initially will be fenced and rested to promote recovery of riparian vegetation. The area will be included in the system of state wildlife areas that are managed for a variety of wildlife conservation purposes, including wildlife-associated recreation consistent with the area's purpose and resources.

"We're very pleased that this wildlife area will be available to the children of Valencia County and future generations to get outside and experience the natural wonder of the bosque," Commission Vice Chairwoman Sandy Buffett said. The Commission currently owns four other properties along the river south of Belen that comprise the Ladd S. Gordon Wildlife Complex. They include the Belen, Casa Colorada, Bernardo and La Joya Wildlife Management Areas.

The State Game Commission has statutory responsibilities for conserving native wildlife, the habitat it depends upon, and providing for human appreciation and use of those resources.