Embudo Station cottonwoods in autumn
Taos trees by river Embudo Station cottonwoods in autumn © Alan Eckert Photography

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Water Protection Project Creates Jobs, Adds $2M to Local Economies

Albuquerque, NM

A new study published by the USGS—in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy (TNC)—revealed that in 2018, the Rio Grande Water Fund created 22 full-time equivalent jobs in New Mexico and surrounding western states while adding nearly $2 million to the local economy.

“We’ve always known the water fund created jobs to get the work done. Now, we know the true economic impact,” says Steve Bassett, Director of Planning and Data Analysis for The Nature Conservancy.  “In addition to supporting the local economy, the water fund is having a positive impact on people from New Mexico to Idaho by providing these employment opportunities.”

The TNC-led Rio Grande Water Fund (RGWF) is a multi-stakeholder collaborative effort to increase the scale of forest restoration to reduce wildfire risk and secure water for one million people in the state.

Over 600,000 acres of at-risk forest within the RGWF project area cover 13 counties across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

In 2018, The Nature Conservancy’s investment in the Rio Grande Water Fund totaled $855,000 and it:

  • Contributed to the creation of 22 full-time equivalent jobs, providing employees with more than $1M in labor income. Jobs ranged from forest thinning and research to environmental consulting and fence removal.
  • Stimulated the economy with nearly $2M in economic output, which measures the total value of the production of goods and services supported by the RGWF expenditures. For example, contractors eating at local restaurants, utilizing local mechanics, and putting gas in machinery.

“Communities in New Mexico are inextricably tied to our forests. Now, we know it’s not only the city water users and farmers who benefit greatly from this work, but also the people who care about the forests and watersheds,” adds Bassett.

Brent Racher owns Restoration Solutions, LLC, based in Corona, NM. “The Rio Grande Water Fund projects have provided consistent work and ensured stability for my four-man team,” Racher says. “I’ve been able to invest in more equipment and plan for the future. Employee stability trickles down to the social fabric of our community.”

While a majority of the economic impact remains within the water fund’s perimeters, the contractors hired from outside of the project area supported four full-time equivalent jobs in western states and provided an economic output of $786,546, showcasing the wide range of benefits.

Since its launch in 2014, the TNC-led Rio Grande Water Fund has improved the health of 140,000 acres of forest in New Mexico with thinning, controlled burns, and managed natural fires. This represents an increase of 1,000% in forest restoration on an annual basis.

To learn more about the Rio Grande Water Fund, visit nature.org/riogrande.

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 79 countries and territories, 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.