783 Acres Along Lower Rio Grande in Selden Canyon Protected (NM)

DONA ANA, N.M. 1/15/2008: New Mexico State Parks, The Trust for Public Land, and the World Wildlife Fund announced today the permanent protection of 783 acres of land along a critical stretch of the Rio Grande in Selden Canyon. The land, part of the Broad Canyon Ranch, is immediately adjacent to N.M. 185 about 15 miles north of the city of Las Cruces. The property contains two of New Mexico’s most rare and threatened habitats: wetlands and riparian forest.

The land acquisition includes a 30-acre wetland known as Swan Pond and approximately one mile of riparian forest along the Rio Grande. The property also has access to grazing leases on an additional 4,830 acres of Chihuahuan Desert grasslands owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the New Mexico State Land Office, which will be leased and managed for wildlife habitat and recreation by State Parks. The Selden Canyon property also will be astride the route of the Rio Grande Trail, a proposed multi-use trail along the river through New Mexico.

“The dedicated support and cooperation of Gov. Bill Richardson and the Legislature, nonprofit groups, federal agencies and private landowners have made it possible to preserve and link critical riparian habitat for both wildlife and outdoor recreation,” said Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Joanna Prukop.

“This is a wonderful addition to the State Parks “string of pearls” along the Rio Grande,” said State Parks Director Dave Simon.

The new property will advance State Parks’ long-range vision to establish more conservation reserves along the lower Rio Grande in order to accomplish river ecosystem restoration, expand education and recreation opportunities and improve river access. The property will be another important link along this stretch of the river owned by State Parks that currently includes Elephant Butte Lake, Caballo Lake, Percha Dam and Leasburg Dam state parks, and the new Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park.

Conservation of Broad Canyon Ranch also will contribute to landscape-level protection efforts along the 11-mile Selden Canyon on the Rio Grande. The ranch connects public federal lands in the Sierra de Las Uvas and Robledo Mountains with the Rio Grande and the large Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center ranch owned by New Mexico State University, which provides connections to the Dona Ana Mountains, the Jornada Experimental Range, and the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge.

The national land conservation organization The Trust for Public Land (TPL) acquired the ranch in November 2008 and conveyed it to State Parks. The Trust for Public Land worked with the landowners, ranchers Joe and Karen Gray, on the purchase during much of the past year as part of TPL’s Rio Grande Protection Program. The Grays had owned the property since the 1960s.

“We are very pleased to have helped protect this important ranch for future generations of New Mexico and to have been a part of a successful coalition that included State Parks and many, many partners,” said Jenny Parks, Trust for Public Land state director. “The protection of Broad Canyon Ranch was possible only by putting together a creative combination of state, federal and private funds.”

The lower Rio Grande is a key ecological corridor for the northern Chihuahuan Desert, one of the world’s most biologically significant deserts. It is a priority area for the conservation efforts of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which has been working with partners Elephant Butte Irrigation District and the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission on a large restoration initiative known as the Rio Grande Canalization Collaborative Project. The partners hope to better integrate flood control, irrigation deliveries and habitat conservation restoration along a 105-mile reach of the river from Caballo Reservoir to American Dam, Texas, including Selden Canyon.

“Selden Canyon is a focus area for the World Wildlife Fund because it provides a wonderful mosaic of native river habitat including wetlands, meadows, and riparian forest” says Beth Bardwell, manager of WWF’s Las Cruces Chihuahuan Desert Program office. “It also has its share of exotic vegetation like salt cedar which we hope to remove. Broad Canyon Ranch will provide great opportunities for recreationists as well as multiple benefits for wildlife. World Wildlife Fund is thankful to State Parks for their pivotal role in acquiring and managing this important land.

“The total purchase price of the acquisition was $1.65 million. Key components of the funding included: $400,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Nature Conservancy; and $1.25 million through New Mexico State Parks that was a combination of state and federal funds, including $500,000 from the State of New Mexico’s Land and Wildlife Program. The federal funds came through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been supported by the New Mexico congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Additional funding came from capital outlay appropriations provided by Sen. Mary Jane Garcia (D – Dona Ana) and Rep. Jeff Steinborn (D – Dona Ana). “The effort seen at Selden Canyon is conservation at its finest,” said State Senator Mary Jane Garcia.

“This project not only provides the people of New Mexico with enhanced quality of life today, but also it protects a pristine area for the benefit of future generations. It was truly and honor and a privilege to be able to participate by securing state funding for such a wonderful endeavor.”

The NM Land and Wildlife Program, which is managed by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, has been funded by the Governor and Legislature for the last two years and is a successful and important source of funds for land protection in New Mexico. The Selden Canyon land acquisition is one of many partnership initiatives begun during New Mexico State Parks 75th Diamond Anniversary celebration in 2008. Over 75 years, State Parks has evolved from a federal New Deal initiative in 1933 to a vibrant system of 34 parks serving over four million people annually.

For more information, call 888-NMPARKS or visit www.nmparks.com.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected 2 million acres nationwide.

World Wildlife Fund is an international conservation organization whose mission is the conservation of nature and has an office in Las Cruces as part of its Chihuahuan Desert program. Find WWF on-line at www.worldwildlife.org.