Forest stand amid blue skies.
Thinning the forest Thinned area can help prevent catastrophic fire. © Laura McCarthy


Protecting our Water Resources by Planting Trees

Imagine your favorite forested area without big, beautiful pine trees. That’s what we’re facing across the Jemez Mountains, which was scorched by the Las Conchas Fire in 2011. The flames burned so hot it burned all the seed sources. That, combined with drought and warmer temperatures, could mean serious issues for our water, recreation industry and the animals who call the forest their home.

In response, The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico added a new strategy to its Rio Grande Water Fund, now celebrating six years with more than 90 partners.

After the Fire: Seeding New Mexico is focused on rebuilding our forest one tree at a time. We will focus   on seed collection, adapting seedlings that can withstand a warming climate and planting “tree islands” – a grouping of trees – that will support future growth.

“New Mexicans play a pivotal role in this effort. We need to engage people to help identify and collect seeds and well as support tree planting in the future,” says Collin Haffey, The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico’s forest and watershed health manager. “Testing is underway right now for an application designed to educate and rally people to join the effort.”

2020 has brought many stops and starts yet we are getting work done. Here’s snapshot of the Rio Grande Water Fund’s success since launching in 2014:

  • 140,000 acres restored through thinning, controlled burns and managing natural fires
  • 330,000 acres in the planning pipeline
  • 1,400 estimated forest jobs supported
  • 120M in total economic impact

“It’s terrific to see the latest annual report for the Rio Grande Water Fund,” adds Louise Iverson, General Mills Foundation Senior Program Manager. “These figures about the Water Fund’s impact to date – like the $120 million in economic impact – are especially powerful and a reminder of the multi-faceted ways this work benefits people and the planet. We continue to be grateful for TNC’s leadership and partnership with General Mills.”

Additionally, we have proven that forest restoration works Earlier this year, fires – near Albuquerque and in northern New Mexico – burned until they hit a thinned area where flames dropped to the ground and fire workers then put it out. Since then, the Rio Grande Water Fund, led by TNC, has already prevented four possible severe fires preventing carbon pollution while also securing water for half the state’s population.

Learn more about the Rio Grande Water Fund.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.