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Bernalillo County – Commissioner Art De La Cruz and State Sen. Michael Padilla today announce the purchase of 57 acres to expand the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque’s South Valley.

The first urban wildlife refuge in the Southwest now totals 488 acres, and the process is underway to develop a master plan for the refuge and visitors center.

The 57 acre purchase was completed today for more than $1.1 million. The funding was secured by Senator Padilla and the New Mexico Legislature earlier this year.

The capital outlay funds were granted to Bernalillo County, which served as the fiscal agent in the transaction.

Commissioner De La Cruz and Bernalillo County have led the local effort to create and expand the refuge.

“I’m pleased to announce more open space will be protected in Albuquerque’s South Valley,” says Commissioner Art De La Cruz. “I want to thank Senator Padilla and the New Mexico Legislature for their support on this issue, which means new economic development and education opportunities for our community.”

“The new Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is a historic opportunity for the Albuquerque metro area, and I’m proud to support it,” State Sen. Michael Padilla says. “This new refuge will bring tourists and visitors from all over the world; new federal jobs; more economic activity throughout the area and new connections to nature for children, teachers and families.”

Today’s purchase was organized by The Trust for Public Land, as were prior land acquisitions.

“Our mission is to protect land for people and the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is a good example of that. It will protect a wonderful place for Albuquerque-area families to enjoy nature close to home,” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land. “We are pleased to make this vision a reality, as we work with our partners, including Bernalillo County, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the New Mexico Legislature, the New Mexico Congressional delegation, and others.”

As part of the purchase, Bernalillo County has received a perpetual conservation easement to the property, which is now managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We are very excited to announce this third phase of land acquisition, and the fact that we can add these next 57 acres through the support of the State of New Mexico and our longstanding partner Bernalillo County is even better,” says Refuge Manager Jennifer Owen-White of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Bernalillo County got this project rolling with the first $5 million in land acquisition and it certainly speaks to the county’s commitment to the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge that they continue to engage as active partners in the refuge’s development. Together we will continue to work hard to build a refuge that serves both wildlife and people through conservation, education and economic development.”