12.15.2015 TAOS, NM Louis Bacon’s Taos Ski Valley Foundation announced today that it has donated $125,000 to The Nature Conservancy to support healthier forests and clean water through the Rio Grande Water Fund. The Water Fund leverages public and private donations to increase the scale and scope of thinning overgrown trees from Taos to Albuquerque, securing water for 1 million people in New Mexico.

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.”

“The challenges related to maintaining healthy forests are myriad,” says Ann Colley, Executive Director of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its affiliate foundations. “We are proud to support The Nature Conservancy’s Water Fund in its efforts to protect the vital forests and watersheds of northern New Mexico.”

The Taos Ski Valley Foundation is the New Mexico affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation. The Foundation and its affiliates support non-profit organizations that work to protect land, habitat, and water resources in specific geographic priority areas including New Mexico, Southern Colorado, Long Island, Eastern North Carolina and The Bahamas. Support from The Taos Ski Valley Foundation will be used to plan forest thinning and stream restoration projects in and around Taos, including the Ski Valley. The gift also will support fire history research for wilderness areas, which is critical step in the restoration process.

“This is a great example of how a gift can truly make a difference in our lives and inspire others to do the same,” says Terry Sullivan, state director of the New Mexico Chapter of the Conservancy.

Momentum for the Rio Grande Water Fund is building with more than 40 diverse partners now collaborating on the project. The Nature Conservancy has also received funding from other investors interested in the Water Fund, most recently Mr. Irving Dietz III, Lineberry Foundation, General Mills Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Bohannan Huston, Los Alamos National Bank, Williams Family Charitable Foundation.

For a complete list of supporters and more information, visit nature.org/riogrande.