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Valle de Oro gets $1 million budget boost

Dan Ashe, director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announces that the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge will receive an additional $1 million for programs for urban youth and communities in conservation and outdoor recreation. (Marla Brose/Journal)

Dan Ashe, director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announces that the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge will receive an additional $1 million for programs for urban youth and communities in conservation and outdoor recreation. (Marla Brose/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The 570-acre Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque’s South Valley will receive $1 million a year from the federal government to support education and community engagement programs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., announced Tuesday during a news conference at the site.

Ariel Elliott, left, Valle de Oro biologist, and Leandra Taylor, a wildlife data intern in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's regional office, pose inside a frame at Valle De Oro National Wildlife Refuge before Dan Ashe, director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the refuge will receive an additional $1 million for programs for urban youth and communities in conservation and outdoor recreation. (Marla Brose/Journal)

Ariel Elliott, left, Valle de Oro biologist, and Leandra Taylor, a wildlife data intern in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional office, pose inside a frame at Valle De Oro National Wildlife Refuge before Dan Ashe, director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the refuge will receive an additional $1 million for programs for urban youth and communities in conservation and outdoor recreation. (Marla Brose/Journal)

That money will be in addition to the refuge’s annual $250,000 budget.

Egrets gather at an acequia near the Valle de Oro National wildlife refuge near the Rio Grande bosque in this file photo.

Egrets gather at an acequia near the Valle de Oro National wildlife refuge near the Rio Grande bosque in this file photo.

Valle de Oro is the first urban wildlife refuge in the Southwest. It is also only the third in the U.S. to receive an annual $1 million boost to their budgets in perpetuity, Ashe said.

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Ashe and Heinrich noted that eight out of 10 U.S. residents now live in urban or suburban areas and they are increasingly becoming disconnected from the outdoor environment. The goal of refuges like Valle de Oro is to bring wildlife and the outdoor environment to urban dwellers.

Located just five miles south of Downtown Albuquerque, the Valle de Oro has been called “a model for other parts of the country,” by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Federal, state, local and private sources contributed the $18.5 million needed to assemble the land, which used to be the old Price’s Dairy, on Second Street SW.

Established in 2012, the refuge is already engaging the local community through partnerships that emphasize conservation, environmental education, special events and summer programs.

With its western border lying along the Rio Grande bosque, the Valle de Oro offers visitors an array of wetland and riparian habitats.

More than 200 species of birds have been observed in the refuge.

During fall and winter, the refuge attracts sandhill cranes, snow geese, Ross’s geese and Canada geese.

In the spring and summer, when fields are flooded, visitors may spot white-faced ibis, American avocet, egrets and yellowlegs. The refuge is a year-round home for various species of hawks, doves, and sparrows, and American kestrel, meadowlark or yellow-rumped warbler. Other commonly seen wildlife includes coyotes, prairie dogs, mule deer, jackrabbits, raccoons, porcupines, skunks, and bull and garter snakes.

The speakers Tuesday also talked about how the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge enhances the quality of life in the South Valley and bolsters the local economy through outdoor tourism and recreation, and how water rights attached to the property help protect and restore the Rio Grande and the bosque.

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