Audubon Southwest Year in Review

Your support helped us achieve great things in 2023

As 2023 comes to a close, Audubon Southwest would like to thank you for your support. We couldn’t have done our work without you!  

This year, we celebrate major accomplishments: 

  • Investments in our wildlife and natural resources
  • Federal actions to save our region’s most imperiled species 
  • Upgrades at our ranch and centers  
  • New additions to our growing team  

I am proud of what our team has accomplished this year, and I can’t wait to see what 2024 hold! Please read on to see what your support achieved in 2023:  

Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund – 2023 started out with a big win with our advocacy efforts at the New Mexico State Capital. Driven by our members and in partnership with a broad coalition of organizations, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund was passed by the New Mexico Legislature. The passage of this bill marks an historic investment in New Mexico’s natural resources. With a $100 million initial appropriation in the first year, the goal is to grow the principal to more than $300 million in the coming years. At that level, nearly $15 million could be allocated to restoration and conservation programs annually in perpetuity.  We'll be working during the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January, to get the additional funding for this critical work.  

Influencing Arizona Water Policy – In May, our Arizona Policy Director Haley Paul had the honor of being appointed to the newly formed Water Policy Council by Governor Katie Hobbs. The Governor gave her Water Policy Council a clear directive: by December 2023, provide her with recommendations on how to improve Arizona’s groundwater management. Read the recommendations here.  Additionally, our Policy Manager Sam Draper serves on the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority’s committee responsible for providing recommendations on water conservation project applications. To date, over $87 million dollars have been awarded across the state to achieve long-term water conservation. Between Haley and Sam, Audubon Southwest is using our expertise and influence to ensure the state manages its precious water resources for the greatest benefit to birds and people. 

New exhibits at  Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center – We  completed a much needed renovation to our exhibit space thanks to generous support from the Nina Mason Pulliam Trust, Meta, and Pattern Energy. The new interactive exhibits allow visitors to hear the songs of our native birds, learn about water conservation, and find ways to take action to conserve and restore wildlife habitat. If you’re in the Phoenix area come by and check it out. 

Groundbreaking for the Largest Renewable Energy Project in the Western Hemisphere – This fall we joined Senator Martin Heinrich, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, White House Advisor John Podesta and other dignitaries in the rangelands of eastern New Mexico to celebrate the beginning of construction for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, a 550-mile line that will supply around 3.5 gigawatts of renewable energy to the western grid. We need big projects like these if we are going to avert the worst impacts of a changing climate, but they aren’t easy to build without impacting fish and wildlife. That is why we have been working directly with the developers for years to ensure the line is built in a way that ensures the climate birds need does not come at the cost of their habitat.  

Rattlesnake relocation – At our Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch in Southeast Arizona we proved that Audubon’s mission to conserve wildlife goes well beyond birds to include even our ground-dwelling friends with big teeth. The conservation challenge we were presented with came in the form of our local rattlesnakes deciding that the spaces beneath our staff and researcher housing units were perfect overwintering sites. To ensure the safety of our staff and guests our ranch team enlisted the help of Rattlesnake Solutions to relocate these dens to a newly constructed den a short (but safe) distance away. Check out our blog and video here (and watch all the way to the end to see a gorgeous Western Diamondback move into its new home). 

Maintaining flows on the Rio Grande We continue to provide water to the Middle Rio Grande as it flows through New Mexico supplying water to miles and miles of bosque that provides vital habitat for endangered species like the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. This year we delivered more than 580 acre feet (189 million gallons) of water that we leased from municipalities and other water users to supply both instream flow for the rivers and also water for wetlands and oxbows in the flood plain in the hopes of maintaining the Rio Grande as a verdant ribbon of life through an arid landscape.  

Lesser Prairie Chicken receives Endangered Species protection – Since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2021, more than 53,000 Audubon members have taken action sending more than 140,000 messages to congress advocating in favor of these needed protections. And earlier this year, when congress attempted to reverse the FWS decision, more than 20,000 Audubon members again spoke up and the Biden administration took notice, re-affirming their decision by vetoing a congressional act that would have nullified the listing decision. Today, the Lesser Prairie Chicken has a fighting chance of surviving in New Mexico thanks in large part to the advocacy of our Audubon members. 

Welcomed new staff members and celebrated a career – This year we had the pleasure of welcoming a number of new members to our team and we’re excited to see what they accomplish for our birds and communities. At the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, we welcomed new Director Daniel Roper-Jones and Senior Education Coordinator Juliana Gomez. Sam Draper has joined our Arizona Policy team as our newest Policy Manager, while we also added much-needed communications capacity in the form of Erika Flores, Senior Communications Manager and Marleen Linares-Gonzalez, Communications Manager. In New Mexico, we brought on two skilled biologists: Miranda Butler-Valverde and Tucker Davidson.  And of course, we had multiple occasions to celebrate the storied career of Tice Supplee our Director of Bird Conservation, a well-known and beloved member of the Arizona conservation community. Tice was awarded both a Lifetime Achievement Award from Partners in Flight and was inducted into the AZ Outdoor Hall of Fame  this year. If you want to celebrate Tice’s accomplishments and career, consider giving a gift to the Tice Supplee Fund for Science and Conservation. 

Thank you again to all our supporters for helping us achieve great things for the birds of Arizona and New Mexico. From our families to yours, happy holidays and have a wonderful new year. 

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