The first two months of 2016 were productive ones for your Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust (RGALT). Not only did RGALT wrap up the accreditation with the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, but the organization also finalized five new conservation easements with a sixth expected to close soon. Not a bad start to this new year.

According to Executive Director, Cecilia Rosacker, the five closed conservation easements are comprised of adjacent parcels in the Rio Grande Corridor New Mexico—North American Wetlands Conservation Act (RGCNM-NAWCA 1), a grant funded conservation easement project. The project is a bargain sale acquisition that includes a total of 387 deeded acres and also includes 159 acres of accreted land, totaling 546 acres. As a conservation area, the property will benefit the migratory bird and other wildlife corridors, the scenic vistas and open space within the 1.25 riparian miles along the Rio Grande.

The natural riparian processes maintain quality roosting, nesting, and feeding habitat for thousands of migratory birds (protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. Sections 703-712) along the Rio Grande flyway. The river and floodplain along the Conservation Area’s edge also support two protected species protected, the Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) and the Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus), while still protecting the agricultural use and water rights of these properties. Additionally, with the project being located 3 miles upstream from the USFWS- Bosque del Apache NWR, the area will contribute to the viability of the refuge.

The project protects the large sum of public dollars that have already been invested in the conservation area to restore native vegetation for the benefit of wildlife, riparian, and the reduction of wildfires. The properties have been managed as a larger parcel in regard to invasive species eradication and habitat restoration. Since 2003, landowners have worked closely with the Socorro Soil and Water Conservation District (SSWCD) to restore and enhance the conservation values of the property including the accreted land. In 2010, the SSWCD received federal funding, some of which was used in January 2010 for follow-up treatment of invasive vegetation on 37 acres, and the remaining funds were used in February of 2011 to plant 86 Goodding’s willow poles and 300 seep willow, New Mexico olive, wolfberry, and skunkbush sumac shrubs.

Stay tuned to RGALT’s monthly e-newsletter for more good news on RGALT conservation easements to protect agricultural land and wildlife habitat for generations to come.