Foundation supports Rio Grande Water Fund

TAOS, N.M.—Thanks to The Taos Ski Valley Foundation’s initial donation to The Nature Conservancy for the Rio Grande Water Fund program last year, land managers—for the first time ever—have gained invaluable knowledge about fire history in the Taos area.

A recent tree-ring study confirms there were repeated, low intensity fires dating back to the 1300s. On average, fires burned in Taos-area forests every 11 to 43 years. This Taos Ski Valley Foundation-funded research will inform on-the-ground forest thinning projects. The new $250,000 grant will boost the momentum of the Water Fund – a solution that can bring clean water to the Land of Enchantment for generations to come.

Water is essential for life and our livelihoods. Nowhere is that more true than in New Mexico. However, the harsh reality is more frequent and severe wildfires with subsequent flooding degrade our rivers, streams and other critical water sources. Without action, New Mexico’s future water supply is at risk.

The Nature Conservancy-led Rio Grande Water Fund leverages public and private donations to increase the scale and scope of thinning overgrown trees from Taos to Albuquerque, safeguarding water for one million people in New Mexico.

“The Rio Grande Water Fund is an ambitious and essential effort to address overgrown forests and fire suppression in Northern New Mexico,” said Louis Bacon, conservation philanthropist, owner of Taos Ski Valley and Founder of The Taos Ski Valley Foundation. “This remarkable project will improve forest health, bolster local economies and improve New Mexico’s water supply.”

Forest restoration – removing trees and burning dry vegetation on-the-ground that serve as fuel – makes them safer and healthier. “In our first two years, we’ve tripled the annual average of trees thinned,” explained Laura McCarthy, The Nature Conservancy’s New Mexico associate director. “This is an incredible collaborative effort that benefits both people and nature.”

The Taos Ski Valley Foundation, the New Mexico affiliate of Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation, supports conservation nonprofits that focus on protecting threatened landscapes, habitats, wildlife, and waterways. Renewed support from the Foundation will be used to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires and secure drinking water in the Rio Grande watershed. The funds will also support projects and policy to develop large-scale uses for the wood being pulled from the forests. Another key component is conducting prescribed burns while training local fire workers.