We received quite an honor last Friday. Secretary Jewell traveled to New Mexico to announce the acquisition completion of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, made possible through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and significant financial assistance from our partners. This is a very proud moment for the Service, especially our Southwest Region.
Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is the Southwest’s first urban national wildlife refuge and one of eight refuges in New Mexico. Established in September 2012, the refuge serves as a gateway to over 560 refuges and wetland management districts nationwide, and as an essential ecological, educational, and recreational resource for the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area. With the acquisition now complete, our efforts will shift towards habitat restoration, infrastructure development and providing on-site education and recreation opportunities for visitors – all of which are already underway.
Last Friday’s celebration recognized our partners who were instrumental in helping us acquire this urban national wildlife refuge. Nearly 75% of the funding needed for acquisition was provided by our partners, with 50% from our non-federal partners. In addition to financial contributions, our partners and Friends group provided valuable assistance in reaching out to the local community and gaining support. This is an excellent example of what can be accomplished through partnerships. I would be remiss if I did not recognize the key role staff within the Southwest Region played in this effort.
I am continuously amazed and proud of our Region’s ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and turn them into opportunities. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.
When first approached with a proposal to create Valle de OroNational Wildlife Refuge, I saw a remarkable opportunity to develop meaningful connections with an urban audience and to provide a gateway to the entire refuge system. It took months of strategic planning, creative thinking and perseverance to set the stage for establishing an urban wildlife refuge in the Albuquerque metropolitan area but we did it! Today it seems that a collaboration of this scale is a natural course of action to take. That is a tribute to the unwavering dedication of our staff here in the Southwest Region.
While special recognition goes to the Refuge staff, work to establish this urban refuge involved all of our programs, with significant contributions throughout our Region. Be it processing needed paperwork , administering a contract, creating fact sheets, developing conceptual designs, providing much needed endangered species consultations, searching for funding options – you worked together throughout the entire process and enabled us all to be successful. You are an extraordinary team, and my pride for each of you knows no bounds.
Thank you for making the Southwest Region a Leader in Conservation.