River winds through desert landscape with mountains in background.
Rio Grande Water Fund Protecting water for one million people. © Tim Speer/TNC Photo Contest 2019

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Taos Ski Valley Foundation Grant Protects Water and Supports Local Economies

Focus on inclusivity and building workforce

The Taos Ski Valley Foundation (TSVF) announced a $125,000 grant for The Nature Conservancy-led Rio Grande Water Fund (RGWF) today. The RGWF is designed to restore 600,000 acres of forest across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado to protect water for 1 million people and reduce wildfire risk. TSVF has been a pivotal partner since the effort launched in 2014.

The new funding will bolster more controlled burning, the practice of deliberately setting and carefully managing fires under strict conditions. A centuries-old tradition, the resurgent practice is used to protect and restore forests by reducing the dense, overgrown understory that fuels wildfires, germinate critical new growth, and promote thriving indigenous plants and wildlife, thereby ensuring a diverse and resilient ecosystem. Funding will also bolster inclusivity and increase capacity within the Rio Grande Waterfund’s work.

“Indigenous Peoples have been putting fire on the ground since the beginning of time, however, that right was taken away by European settlers,” says John Waconda, Indigenous Peoples partnership program director. “Now we’ve seen a shift to revitalize controlled burning because it helps build community and forest resilience.”

Waconda will lead the effort to facilitate learning exchanges with two new or existing tribal communities in New Mexico who are part of the Indigenous Peoples Burning Network, a collaborative effort designed to support cultural burning. Additionally, workshops will be held to educate fire practitioners on prescribed fire liability, burner certification and training to increase capacity to get more work done on the ground.

Rising temperatures, severe drought and catastrophic fire events across the entire Southwest make proactive on-the-ground work of the Rio Grande Water Fund more necessary than ever.

Founder, Taos Ski Valley Foundation

“Rising temperatures, severe drought and catastrophic fire events across the entire Southwest make proactive on-the-ground work of the Rio Grande Water Fund more necessary than ever,” said Louis Bacon, owner of Taos Ski Valley and founder of Taos Ski Valley Foundation. “Preventing and mitigating fires is the highest conservation priority. We commend Nature Conservancy New Mexico and  the Rio Grande Water Fund public and private partners on their collaboration to address these challenges.”

“We’re grateful to Taos Ski Valley Foundation for its ongoing and generous support. Contributions have helped us triple our annual thinning average, prevented four severe fires, supported hundreds of jobs and provided tens of millions of dollars in economic outputs,” said Terry Sullivan, The Nature Conservancy’s state director for New Mexico.

The Taos Ski Valley Foundation supports conservation nonprofits that focus on protecting threatened landscapes, habitats, wildlife, and waterways.

With 100 signatories, an increasing number of people see the value in restoring our forests in the face of climate change.

About the Taos Ski Valley Foundation

The Taos Ski Valley Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation, founded by Louis Bacon in 1992, supports conservation nonprofits that focus on protecting threatened landscapes, habitats, wildlife and waterways. The Taos Ski Valley Foundation also supports educational and community programs in the region.

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 www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.