The Nature Conservancy, New Mexico
“The Rio Grande Water Fund is an ambitious and essential effort to address overgrown forests and fire suppression in Northern New Mexico. This remarkable project will improve forest health, bolster local economies and improve New Mexico’s water supply.” – ” Louis Bacon, conservation philanthropist, Founder of The Taos Ski Valley Foundation
The Nature Conservancy, New Mexico uses science and innovative strategies to protect New Mexico’s lands and waters. The Taos Ski Valley Foundation supports the Rio Grande Water Fund, a project that will generate sustainable funding for a 10-30 year program of large-scale forest and watershed restoration treatments—including thinning overgrown forests, restoring streams and rehabilitating areas that flood after wildfires.
Forested mountains serve as nature’s water storage and filtering facilities. Frequent, high-severity wildfires and subsequent post-fire flooding increasingly threaten water that serves nearly half of the state’s population.
“Thinning our forests makes them safer and healthier, and creates economic benefit through sustainable rural livelihoods. Before we launched the Water Fund, the annual average rate of thinning throughout the watershed was 3,000 acres. That’s not enough to make a difference,” says Ernie Atencio, the Conservancy in New Mexico’s Rio Grande Water Fund Program Associate. “In the first year of the Water Fund, we tripled the number of acres restored, and we hope to keep up that pace by thinning 600,000 acres in the next 20 years.”
Forest restoration – removing trees and burning dry vegetation on-the-ground that serve as fuel – makes them safer and healthier. “In our first two years, we’ve tripled the annual average of trees thinned,” explains Laura McCarthy, The Nature Conservancy’s New Mexico associate director. “This is an incredible collaborative effort that benefits both people and nature.”