DOI / VISTA Team Projects

Valle de Oro Wildlife Refuge

Catherine Parrish

DOI / VISTA: Catherine Parrish
Supervisor: Jennifer Owen-White
Address: 7851 2nd Street, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102-3118
County: Bernalillo County
Voice Telephone: 505-248-6667
Web site:
Web site 2:
Congressional District: 1
Bureau: Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS)


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency with the responsibility for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Friends of Valle de Oro NWR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service work together to achieve the primary goal of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge to protect the land and water needed to provide refuge visitors from a large urban area with an understanding and appreciation of fish and wildlife resources through environmental education and interpretation and through wildlife- oriented recreational experiences and to improve the ecological integrity of the Middle Rio Grande Ecosystem.

Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, the Southwest’s first urban wildlife refuge, will serve as an urban oasis for both wildlife and people. The refuge offers a unique environmental education and recreation opportunity in a highly populated area while promoting a wildlife conservation message. It is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a national network of lands and waters managed for the benefit of wildlife, habitat, and you. The Valle De Oro National Wildlife Refuge, formerly known as Price’s Dairy, is 570 acres of farm land located five miles south of downtown Albuquerque. The refuge was established by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in partnership with the Trust for Public Land in 2012, preserving habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Located on the east bank of the Rio Grande, the refuge is seven miles south of downtown Albuquerque. The 570 acres of refuge land is currently an alfalfa field that is being farmed and sold as feed for horses and livestock. The refuge will continue to be a working farm for the next few years as site planning continues, however, the long grasses and irrigation ditches that cross-hatch the site are an attractive spot for wildlife, especially ground-nesting birds, grassland species, geese, cranes (in the winter), and various w

About the Surrounding Community

Bernalillo County is the most densely populated county in New Mexico, containing the capitol Albuquerque (pop. 555,417) which supports over 80% of the county’s population. According to the latest 2010 census, Hispanics are the largest ethnic group in both Bernalillo and Valencia counties, comprising 58% of the total population of Valencia and 49% of the population of Bernalillo County. The national proportion of Hispanics in the population is just 15.8%. These counties also have significant proportions of Native Americans, comprising 4.6% of Bernalillo County and 3.5% percent of Valencia County as compared to the national average of 0.6%. Additionally, the New Mexico Department of Health reported in The State of Health in New Mexico 2009 Weight Status, that the subpopulations of American Indian (32.8%) and Hispanic (30.0%) adults in the state experience significantly higher obesity rates than non?Hispanic White (20.5%).

There are notable shifts in the ethnic and racial composition of neighborhoods across the Albuquerque metropolitan area within Bernalillo County. The area with the highest concentrations of Hispanic residents is the South Valley, where many neighborhoods are more than 75% Hispanic. The South Valley has also been an area of persistent poverty since the 1970s; with more than 55% of the population with incomes below 150% of the poverty level as of 2009. Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge was established in this economically depressed and ethnically diverse area in part to help the Service reach out to a community U.S. Fish and Wildlife has previously not actively engaged.

The refuge is specifically located in the Mountain View Neighborhood of the South Valley. Mountain View was a traditionally agricultural community that became zoned for heavy industrial uses in the 1960’s. The neighborhood is still home to many polluting industries that border residential and agricultural properties and it contains two of the three Superfund Sites in Bernalillo County; one of which is the most contaminated Superfund site in the state. Additionally, the Mountain View neighborhood is home to Joy Junction, the state’s largest family homeless shelter and the Albuquerque Wastewater Treatment Plant, treating all sewage from the City of Albuquerque. According to Mountain View resident Nora Garcia, the neighborhood is “an underdeveloped community burdened by manufacturing and heavy industrial usage. The community is constantly subjected to hazardous substances from industrial operations that contaminate ground water, and heavy truck traffic that pollutes the air.” In 2012, the Bernalillo County Place Matters team through a Health Impact Assessment, statistically combined a set of measures into a single “community risk” index (CRI) for each census tract within the county. The CRI was calculated based on variables of interest such as: average educational attainment, average standardized test scores, the violent crime rate, the foreclosure rate, the unemployment rate, vacant houses, households with no automobile, and overcrowded households. The higher the CRI score, the higher the risk associated with socioeconomic and community conditions. The Mountain View community ranked among the highest indices for community risk in the county.

Project Overview

The Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuges' DOI/VISTA Catherien Parrish is building capacity for the newly developing Refuge’s community outreach efforts and working with community members, staff and partners to develop programs that use the Refuge as a source of poverty relief for the surrounding region. Catherine will establish a volunteer base and community events in the refuge that will increase involvement in its ongoing development. She works in the FWS regional office in Albuquerque and serves the South Valley of Bernalillo County.

Sponsors and Partners

For more information please visit: