The Rio is one of the most important rivers in western North America, providing water to around 6 million people and 2 million acres of irrigated land plus the natural tributaries and habitats (About the Rio Grande ) Given that the Rio Grande runs through several states and the border between Mexico and is so crucial to this region, managing water intake from the Rio is one of the most crucial parts of running a wildlife refuge in arid New Mexico as I found out when I got to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
After a long time in a quiet office, we managed to get some fresh air and see some beautiful scenery and spot some wildlife. Bosque covers around 30,000 acres of wetlands, fields, and desert all fed by the RIo Grande, and with water gates and drainage systems it is able to have water in wetlands year-long (Bosque del Apache). However, as the FWS hydrologists that took us to Bosque explained, each refuge has an unique water right, a set flow rate that they need to follow as they shift water to different sections of the refuge to mimic natural seasons. If a refuge exceeds the water levels that it is taking from the Rio Grande, it actually has to return the excess and offset the flow rate which could be damaging to the wetlands especially in warmer seasons. We assisted them with checking the drainage system and water monitoring equipment to make sure the flow rate and water of the wetlands were at the proper levels. These wetlands are a critical stopping point for migrating birds and home to countless species like the endangered meadow jumping mouse. Wetlands also improve human life through natural water purification and provide flood protection (Wetlands). Whether it’s in the field or in the office, I’m excited to be working to help with refuge conservation.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: Civilian Climate Corps Program (CCC)
Location: Southwest Regional Office