The Trust For Public Land Praises Decision to Create New Refuge

The Trust for Public Land today strongly supported the announcement by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar of plans to create a new National Wildlife Refuge along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque.

The new Middle Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge would be the first urban national wildlife refuge in the southwest, Salazar announced at a news conference at the site. The refuge will be open to the public once acquisition of the 570-acre Price’s Dairy property has been completed.

The Trust for Public Land has been working for years to protect the Price’s Dairy property. Located just five miles from downtown, the land is one of the largest undeveloped agricultural properties in the metropolitan Albuquerque region.

Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land, appeared with Salazar at the news conference and said, “This is very welcome news, and is a great step toward protecting this wonderful place for everyone who lives here. We are grateful for the strong support of New Mexico’s Senators Bingaman and Udall and Congressman Heinrich as well as the critical local support of the Bernalillo County Commission and in particular Commissioner Art De La Cruz. The County’s early commitment of $5 million towards this project is one of the keys to the success of this project.”

“We also want to thank Secretary Salazar and the Fish and Wildlife Service for focusing on protecting open spaces for people who live in urban areas. Prices Dairy is a good example of that focus,” he said.

“Today’s announcement shows a clear path forward for the protection of this land,” added Rogers, while cautioning, “There are still many challenges ahead because the refuge exists now in name only. We need to take additional steps for this to become a place truly accessible to the public, including assembling the funds needed to acquire the property.”

The total cost of the project is estimated to be at least $20 million, which includes substantial senior water rights. TPL is working with other federal and non-federal agencies on securing additional funds. Key to this funding package will be the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which gets its money from offshore oil and gas receipts, not taxpayer dollars.

The local Mountain View Neighborhood Association and South Valley Civitan Club have joined with partners across the state to support the refuge recognizing the great benefits it will bring to river and habitat conservation, outdoor education and recreation, and to supporting local jobs, tourism and revitalization of the area. Last March, the Albuquerque City Council passed a Resolution endorsing the proposal and earlier this year, New Mexico Senate Memorial 43 in support of the refuge proposal was introduced by Senator Tim Eichenberg and passed unanimously.

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization which protects land for people to enjoy as parks and open spaces and is the nation’s only organization committed to building parks in urban areas across the nation. Since it was founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres in 47 states. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations.