Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of New Mexico that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Establishment of an urban national wildlife refuge in Albuquerque and construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting the town of Aztec to Aztec Ruins National Monument are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Susana Martinez and the state of New Mexico, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of New Mexico and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in New Mexico highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Price's Dairy is in the South Valley of Albuquerque, N.M., five miles south of downtown, on North America's second largest river, the Rio Grande. At 570 acres, this former dairy is one of the largest remaining farms in the Middle Rio Grande Valley and the largest agricultural property in the Albuquerque metro region. The city of Albuquerque is among the fastest growing urban areas in the United States. Its development footprint contributes to a loss of history and culture and significantly stresses the natural resources of the valley and the Rio Grande.
The property's size and location has made it the target of various development schemes, as well as efforts by various federal, state, and local agencies to preserve and protect it.
Salazar recently announced approval of a plan for an urban wildlife refuge in Albuquerque. Protecting the property as a refuge will greatly bolster environmental education for students and provide a gateway to the larger regional National Wildlife Refuge System. It would also protect the property's natural-resource values that would be lost through development.
In addition, because of its significant water rights, protecting this property would add to the health and vitality of the adjacent Rio Grande, which struggles to support not only the people who depend on it for water but also the wildlife living in and around it.
As one of the last undeveloped parcels along the Rio Grande, Price's Dairy is an important refuge and waypoint for migratory birds, like sandhill cranes, Arctic geese, and varied duck species, migrating along river from summer-breeding grounds in the North to wintering havens in the South. While supporting this critical flyway, the river corridor also provides an opportunity for hiking and biking along the state-planned Rio Grande Trail.
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Ancestral Pueblo structures dating back to the 11th century offer historical insight and educational opportunities within close reach of the town of Aztec, N.M..
The general-management plan for the National Park Service-managed Aztec Ruins National Monument calls for collaboration with the city on a joint trail system to connect the monument and town via a pedestrian bridge across the Animas River. This increased access would further connect local residents to their nearby history, enhancing public engagement and enjoyment.
The monument has already begun to collaborate with state, federal, and local agencies to create the trail and bridge. Using a National Park Foundation grant and a technical assistance grant from National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program, strategic planning is well underway. The city has collaborated with the New Mexico Department of Transportation on bridge construction, and the monument is making appropriate adjustments to pedestrian traffic- and river-corridor access in preparation for the bridge. However, the project still requires a significant amount of planning and funding before it can be completed.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In New Mexico, for example, the Department will continue the process of creating the new urban refuge in Albuquerque and could provide funding and technical assistance for building a bridge and trail to Aztec Ruins National Monument.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.