Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced approval of a proposed 570–acre national wildlife refuge on a former dairy farm just a few miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area.

“Once complete, this refuge, which is within a half–hour drive of nearly half of New Mexico’s population, will be a place for people to connect with and learn about the natural world and will provide valuable habitat for wildlife, including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher,” said Salazar. Ultimately, the refuge will give visitors a chance to see waterfowl, small mammals and neotropical migrant birds, including the flycatcher.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bernalillo County have long explored the possibility of establishing an urban refuge on the former Price’s Dairy Farm. After completing the necessary studies and planning documents, the Service is now authorized to acquire land and establish the refuge. By policy, the Service acquires lands for refuges only from willing sellers. Condemnation is not used. The current owners of the 570–acre site are interested in selling the land. The Bernalillo County Commission has set aside $5 million to assist with land acquisition.

Joined at the September announcement by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Congressman Martin Heinrich and Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, Salazar said a refuge in this location would fulfill the goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to work with community partners to establish a 21st century conservation ethic and reconnect people, especially young people, to the natural world.

An unofficial Friends group has already established itself as advocates for the new refuge. One of the group’s leaders, Angela West, says, “I’m so excited and so proud of our community. This will change people’s live and change children’s lives. Come back in five years and you will see that change.”

Additional funding for purchase of the land will likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Congress established the fund in 1964 to use revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to support the conservation of America’s lands and waters. Watch videos of community advocates for the new refuge at