a group of volunteers gathers around for a tree planting demonstration
Volunteer Tree Planting Jennifer Dann from the New Mexico State Forestry demonstrates how to properly plant a tree. © Natalie Sommer/TNC

Stories in New Mexico

Creative Conservation in Albuquerque

TNC in New Mexico works with local partners and communities to plant trees and enhance the relationship between cities and nature so both can thrive.

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Sarah Hurteau, The Nature Conservancy’s Albuquerque urban conservation director, has a vision for redefining how natural systems and cities interact—while building a more diverse and inclusive conservation community. She works daily to help create an Albuquerque metro area that is prosperous and environmentally sound.

“With strong partnerships and community input, we can have more resilient neighborhoods with happier and healthier people,” says Hurteau, “and we can nurture a new generation of conservation leaders.”

Specifically, Sarah is working with communities to plant trees in neighborhoods that need them most, as well as engaging youth in projects that teach them about conservation and tree care.

Working with Communities

Albuquerque’s tree canopy is less than 10-percent. To help increase that number, Mountain View residents—through their neighborhood association—designed a master plan to improve landscaping in Albuquerque's South Valley.

Working in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy's Urban Conservation Program—designed to bring nature into the city—a community crew of 135 volunteers planted 63 native and desert adapted trees at seven neighborhood locations, including Mountain View Community Center and Joy Junction. The new trees, planted in March 2019, will help clean Albuquerque's air and provide much needed shade.

“It’s important to plant and care for trees in an urban environment,” said Ben Maddox, a certified arborist and trustee of The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico. Ben and his company, Maddox Outdoor Solutions, pre-dug holes for the trees prior to the volunteer planting day. “I’m inspired to be part of this huge community effort to green the city and support a healthy urban tree canopy.”

Science shows that more trees and greenspace reinvigorate residents’ social connection with nature, which makes people happier and healthier.

The tree planting project was made possible through support from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo, General Mills, Nusenda Foundation, Avalon Trust and private donors, as well as 230 hours of volunteer time from a number of groups: ADT Security Services; Ben Maddox, Maddox Outdoor Solutions; Cub Scouts | Boy Scouts of America; General Mills, Inc.; Rocky Mountain Youth Corps; Sandia High School students; University of New Mexico students; Wells Fargo; and many other volunteers who support TNC and the Mountain View neighborhood.

It is an example of how our Urban Conservation Program is working with Albuquerque communities to apply nature-based solutions to clean our air and cool urban temperatures.

Engaging Young People

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has also been working with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) to collaborate on projects and engage young people in the outdoors. “I had restoration projects ready, but no people power, and here comes this amazing army searching for meaningful work,” explains Sarah Hurteau of TNC.

The RMYC engages young people in the outdoors, inspiring healthy, productive lives. Recruiting mainly from economically-challenged neighborhoods, they provide much-needed paid opportunities while teaching responsibility for self, community and the environment.

A RYMC crew of eight spent two weeks with Hurteau and flood control authority staff, identifying native plants, and removing invasive trees from a five-acre, sandy-bottomed arroyo in northeast Albuquerque. Arroyos capture storm water, and restoring the natural filtration they provide can vastly improve the quality of water available for other uses.

Youth Restore Natural Arroyos in Albuquerque The Albuquerque Urban Conservation Program engages young people in the outdoors, providing paid, hands-on experience while teaching environmental stewardship.

Another crew kept busy with the City of Albuquerque, surveying and pruning trees in parks with the objective to maintain healthy trees that can reduce air pollution and heat on city streets, while connecting people with nature. The work also served as a successful training test for youth interested in tree stewardship careers. Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, both crews had fun, too, enjoying interpretive bird walks and other activities.

“When I met Sarah, it felt like a strong partnership was pre-destined,” says Jordan Stone, RMYC program manager. “There's plenty of good work to be done."

Hurteau’s excited to expand the collaboration. “We will accomplish exponentially more with the crews we’ll have working with us,” she says.

Youth Learn the Importance of Trees In a partnership between Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, the City of Albuquerque and The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico, youth learn how to care for urban trees.

Plant a Tree

You can get help make Albuquerque greener by planting your own tree. You can learn more about native trees, proper tree care and how to apply for a "Tree-Bate" by visiting the Water Utility Authority's website.