Wild, Working and Resilient Relic

Protecting the Gila River, Our Southwest Ribbon of Life

One of the Southwest’s last major free-flowing rivers, the Gila River supports a rich diversity of plant and animal life, including millions of migrating birds each year. It also plays a key role in supporting local farming, ranching and recreation economies.

You can help us protect the Gila River and the many benefits it provides for nature and people.

The Nature Conservancy’s Gila Riparian Preserve and the Lichty Ecological Research Center serve as living laboratories for important research and outreach. Here are just a few highlights from the year.


Annual Cliff-Gila Valley surveys showed large and stable populations of endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and threatened yellow-billed cuckoo.

Other migrating birds that spend part of their year at the preserve include summer tanagers and sandhill cranes.



People have lived along the Gila for centuries, and our sites are important places for gathering knowledge about their cultures.

A crew of archaeologists—including 15 college students from across the country—excavated a Salado site from the early 1300s (an ancient Southwest culture) at Gila River Farm last summer.


To support the local economy and fund ongoing stewardship at our larger Gila Riparian Preserve, the Conservancy’s Martha Cooper, Southwest New Mexico field representative, works with an agricultural partner to hay fields each year at the Gila River Farm.



Led by Dr. Keith Geluso, University of Nebraska-Kearney students visited the preserve this year to learn about mammals in the Gila watershed including bats.



Conservancy staff enrolled water rights in an Upper Gila ditch conservation plan this year, demonstrating one tool for keeping water in the river during periods of low flows.



A great diversity of people and animals call the river and floodplain home, including this mountain lion seen by our preserve’s motion sensor cameras.

The Arizona Water Settlement Act of 2004 threatens to irrevocably change the Gila River in New Mexico, impacting the many lives and economies it supports.

The Conservancy believes that there are better solutions—for the people and for the wildlife of Southwest New Mexico—than spending hundreds of millions of dollars on diversion projects. We know the Gila River Flow Needs Assessment—an extensive collaborative study of the river’s current condition, documenting potential impacts from a proposed diversion as well as from climate change—had sobering results.

“Conservation and water re-use are cheaper than a costly diversion,” says Dave Gori, the Conservancy’s director of science in New Mexico. “Plus those tactics are easier and quicker to implement for balancing water supply and demand.”

We need your help to protect the Gila River—today and for future generations>>

Explore More Places We Protect in New Mexico>>


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