New urban wildlife refuge opens in Albuquerque
Posted at: 09/27/2012 5:40 PM
| Updated at: 09/27/2012 6:04 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Albuquerque's South Valley is home to the first urban National Wildlife Refuge in the southwest region of the country.
It's called Valle de Oro - Valley of Gold. Old-timers will remember it as Price's Dairy, deep in the Valley on south 2nd Street.
It's 389 acres that will now be a protected home for all kinds of wild birds, antelope and coyotes - and open to the public.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Rep. Martin Heinrich, County Commissioner Art De La Cruz and other dignitaries to formally establish the refuge Thursday morning.
It's just 8 miles from downtown Albuquerque - rich farmland tucked along the wooded banks of the Rio Grande. About half of the state's population lives within a half hour drive of the new refuge. Neighbors expect tourists and business growth - both are welcome in economically troubled communities like Mountainview.
"This and the corridor that comes to it will change lives within the next five years," Mountainview Neighborhood Association President Angela West said. "In the long term it will change many lives. What it will do for children is absolutely profound."
"It's going to bring in education for the children," said Mountainview activist Nora Jean Garcia. "That is our main goal. We have put so much effort in the children here and this is going to give them all kinds of learning."
"Bringing this land into public ownership will give residents and visitors alike access to a beautiful natural space right here in our state's largest city," said Sen. Bingaman.
Bernalillo County taxpayers chipped in $5 million for the $11.5 million purchase of the land and water rights. Federal agencies picked up the rest of the tab, along with nearly $2 million from the Albuquerque Metro Arroyo Flood Control Authority. The Trust for Public Land was also an active player in the deal.
Salazar also formally established the Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern New Mexico Thursday afternoon. The Mora River flows through the new refuge for about 5 miles in a deep canyon. Philanthropists Eugene and Clare Thaw donated their Wind River Ranch on the banks of the Mora to make the refuge possible.