The importance of riverine and riparian habitat in the Southwest cannot be overemphasized; the wetland ecosystems of the Southwest are among the rarest habitat types in the Western Hemisphere. Of the 106 forest types identified in North America, the western cottonwood/willow forest association has been identified as the rarest. In Arizona and New Mexico, riparian habitat accounts for less than three tenths of one percent (.003%) of all the land and yet 80% of all vertebrates and over 50% of bird species in the American Southwest are dependent upon it. It is estimated that in the past 200 years, 92% of the historic wetlands in the middle Rio Grande have been lost and the impacts of climate change are further reducing these and other critical riverine and wetland habitats.
Rio Grande Return was founded in 2007 and has been advocating for the protection of the unique waters, wetlands, and wildlife of the Southwest. Additionally, we have been involved in the development and management of many on-the-ground projects resulting in the protection and restoration of thousands of acres of wetlands throughout New Mexico.
Since January of 2020, RGR has planted over 200,000 willow, 6,000 cottonwood and Gooddings willow, 1,200 native riparian container plants and 44,000 salt grass plugs; has cultivated wetland seed on over200 acres; cleared invasive trees from over 400 acres of wetlands; constructed exclosures to protect riparian areas from cattle and elk on more than 50 acres; erected/repaired over 15 miles of wildlife friendly fence; constructed and maintained more than 650 in-stream structures on over 10 miles of streams; installed pond levelers in rural communities to promote beaver co-existence strategies; engaged in erosion control activities to support post-fire mitigation;established a native seed propagation farm; formed a Habitat Conservation Program focused on strategies for development of native wildlife habitats and refuges on formerly agricultural lands;and provided professional services and design planning to state and federal agencies regarding environmental restoration projects.