Rio Grande Return is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that was started in 2007 to help protect New Mexico’s rivers, streams, springs and seeps, and the unique habitats and diverse wildlife they support. The importance of riverine and riparian habitat in the Southwest cannot be overemphasized; the wetland ecosystems in 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.

Since 2007, Rio Grande Return has been advocating for the protection of the unique waters, wetlands, and associated wildlife of the Southwest. Additionally, we 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.  

Rio Grande Return now has its own Restoration Program and since the beginning of 2020 we have planted 35,500 willow, 715 cottonwood and Gooding’s willow, 350 native riparian container plants and 8,850 salt grass plugs.

Cottonwoods and Coyote Willow planted on the Canadian River, Mills Canyon, Kiowa National Grassland

Additionally, in 2020 Rio Grande Return has cleared invasive trees from 64 acres of riparian wetlands, constructed 3 exclosures around 14 acres to protect riparian plantings from cattle and elk browse, and built 3/4mile of wildlife friendly fence in the Valles Caldera.  On San Antonio Creek, Rio Chamita, Rio San Antonio, and Redondo Meadows, we have constructed 158 in-stream structures on approximately 4 miles of streams.

Beaver Dan Analog on San Antonio Creek in the Santa Fe National Forest

In the coming year, in addition to many more stream and wetland restoration projects, we are hoping to develop a Native Plant and Seed Restoration Program to address the current shortages and challenges of restoration plant materials in New Mexico.

For more information, please contact us at:
Rio Grande Return
1704B Llano St. #347
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505