New Mexico DGF Purchases Land Along Gila River

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Sensitive species and precious aquatic habitat along more than a mile of the Gila River will be better protected with the recent purchase of 168 acres through a partnership between the State Game Commission and The Nature Conservancy.

The property in the Gila-Cliff Valley, 25 miles northwest of Silver City in Grant County, supports critical populations of several indigenous fish species, including the federally and state protected spikedace and loach minnow. The property also provides vital habitat for other endemic, rare, and declining species.

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 $600,000 purchase used a special appropriation for land conservation requested by Governor Bill Richardson during the 2005 Legislature.

"I'm proud that we were able to use a combination of conservation statutes and strategic funding for land protection to purchase this property and move wildlife conservation forward in the Gila River System," Governor Richardson said.

"This property is extraordinarily rich biologically," said Terry Sullivan, state director for the Nature Conservancy. The Gila River Valley is among the few undammed rivers in the West, which provides for an amazing diversity of aquatic life."

"This is among the few remaining places in the Southwest where natural river processes function, and it is vitally important to protect it," Game Commission Chairman Alfredo Montoya said.

The property contains more than 50 species and natural communities that are important globally. "These species and vegetation communities are featured conservation targets in the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy for New Mexico," said Department of Game and Fish Director Bruce Thompson.

This acquisition is a leveraged partnership in which the State of New Mexico provided 90 percent of the cost. The Nature Conservancy paid 10 percent and agreed to provide long-term stewardship of the property through a management agreement with the Game Commission. The property will be adequately fenced and rested to promote recovery of riparian vegetation as part of the stewardship agreement. 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.

The State Game Commission has statutory responsibilities for conserving native wildlife, the habitat it depends upon, and providing for human appreciation of those resources. The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals, and natural communities representing the diversity of life.