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NM, species lucky a river runs through woman’s generosity

Thank heavens New Mexico has do-gooders aplenty.

Doris Rhodes, owner of this property in Socorro County, has agreed to allow the area to be transformed into a refuge as part of the effort to help save habitat for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow. (Robert Bowman/Albuquerque Journal)

But do-gooders willing to pass up a million-dollar payday? Far more rare. All the more reason to cheer for Doris Rhodes, who is allowing the 629-acre lot of Rio Grande riverfront property she inherited in Socorro County to be transformed into a massive refuge for the endangered silvery minnow.

According to a Sunday Journal story by reporter Theresa Davis, Rhodes and her sisters inherited the parcel of land after the 2005 death of her father, state Sen. Virgil Rhodes. While a developer offered the Albuquerque resident $1 million cash for the property near Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Rhodes turned him down because “this is conservation land.”

The Rio Grande silvery minnow is an endangered fish that struggled during last year’s drought. (Courtesy of Bureau of Reclamation)

Earlier this year, years after Rhodes first started advocating for her land to be used for silvery minnow reclamation, crews showed up for a project that basically involves building side channels in order to slow down the Rio Grande enough to create a good habitat for the fish. It wasn’t just an extraordinary act of generosity on Rhodes’ part; it was also a remarkable example of collaboration involving a landowner, and the worlds of government and nonprofits.

And it wasn’t the first time. Rhodes has offered her land as a refuge for other native flora and fauna: the yellow-billed cuckoo, the southwestern willow flycatcher and the Pecos sunflower.

New Mexico is a beautiful state, home to an abundance of natural resources worthy of protecting. And Rhodes’ magnanimity is about more than offering safe harbor to one endangered species – it’s a reminder the Land of Enchantment is a better place because of generous folks like Rhodes.

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