Along the Rio Grande, Farms are the Future for Wetland Birds

This year, Johnny Pack protected his land along the Rio Grande with a conservation easement. After invasive salt cedar was removed, sunflowers regenerated in a wet meadow where ducks and songbirds find food and cover.
For over a decade, Johnny Pack has worked to remove invasive salt cedar on his property, to the right of the fence. It once looked like the other side, where the weed forms an impenetrable wall choking out native plants. While Pack and his conservation partners still have more restoration work ahead, removing the thirsty shrub has helped improve the floodplain’s wetland habitat.
Each year, managers at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex grow over a million pounds of corn and alfalfa. In the winter, the flooded farm fields support wetland birds and prevent them from damaging crops on the valley’s private farms.
While the Rio Grande’s natural flow is heavily altered, its floodplain cottonwood forest continues to provide crucial wildlife habitat. It also serves as a green oasis for the 40 percent of New Mexicans who live within the Middle Rio Grande. Until the creation of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, Albuquerque’s South Valley neighborhood lacked sanctioned access to the river.
Throughout her 18-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gina Dello Russo promoted and implemented native habitat restoration on private lands by working with numerous local and regional partners.
Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge’s manager, Jennifer Owen-White, has asked for community input on how the former dairy farm should be restored to native floodplain and upland habitat.

Intermountain West JV

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The Intermountain West Joint Venture works to conserve priority bird habitats through partnership-driven, science-based projects and programs. www.iwjv.org

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