Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Credit: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish​

​NFWF Announces $540,000 in Grants to Restore River Habitat in the Rio Grande Headwaters

Public-private partnership announces first round of grants to conserve species and their habitats in the Rio Grande Headwaters of Colorado and New Mexico

Rio Grande cutthroat trout | Credit: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish​

​WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 2, 2019) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $540,000 in grants to restore, protect and enhance riparian habitat and species of conservation concern in the headwaters of the Rio Grande watershed. The grants will generate $675,927 in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $1.22 million.

The grants were awarded through the Rio Grande Headwaters Program, a partnership between NFWF and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Trinchera Blanca Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation, founded by Louis Bacon. 

“Communities and wildlife alike in the arid Southwest rely on the Rio Grande for sustenance and quality of life,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “We are excited to expand our support of conservation in the Rio Grande watershed into the critical headwaters region with the help and commitment of our partners. Investing in the upper watershed will restore and enhance habitat for native species while conserving this precious resource.”

The projects supported by the five grants announced today will produce measureable outcomes for species of conservation concern in the riparian corridors of the headwaters region of the Rio Grande, including native fish like Rio Grande chub, Rio Grande cutthroat trout and Rio Grande sucker, as well as North American beaver.

“The Rio Grande is critical to the wildlife, people, and agricultural communities of New Mexico,” said Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist for NRCS New Mexico. “NRCS is excited to collaborate with NFWF and other partners to further strengthen our commitment to the conservation of natural resources in the Southwest.  NRCS looks forward to providing additional resources and services to this important project that promises new and exciting conservation approaches for improving the confidence of all water users, including wildlife, which benefits the land and people of New Mexico.

“Riparian restoration of the Rio Grande headwaters expands our long-time collaboration with partner NFWF,” said Louis Bacon, chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its local affiliate, The Trinchera Blanca Foundation. “NFWF’s grants program in the San Luis Valley of Colorado and northern New Mexico will encourage landscape-scale conservation partnerships and investments to benefit both residents and threatened species.”

This is the inaugural round of grant awards for the Rio Grande Headwaters Program, a new focal area within NFWF’s Southwest Rivers Program. The funded projects improve the ecological function of the river headwaters by working collaboratively with stakeholders to restore riparian habitat that directly supports species of conservation concern and which has long drawn people and wildlife to the banks of the Rio Grande. Maintaining healthy headwater streams can also help store water upstream and provide security for water users, fish and wildlife downstream.

This year’s Rio Grande Headwaters Program grant recipients include:

  • New Mexico Department of Game and Fish ($100,000) will improve instream habitat and channel function for resident fish species including Rio Grande chub, brown trout and rainbow trout, and enhance riparian health for several associated wildlife species in New Mexico. The project will increase fish passage and riparian health and function through channel shaping and revegetation at the site of an important recreational fishery.
  • Trout Unlimited, Inc. ($96,059) will advance conservation objectives outlined in the 2013 Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Conservation Strategy, a multi-partner document intended to ensure Rio Grande cutthroat trout persistence throughout its range. This project will enhance partner coordination, advance site characterization, prioritize projects and implement projects on several tributary streams of the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico.
  • Trout Unlimited, Inc. ($152,416) will recover and conserve Rio Grande cutthroat trout in Colorado by implementing a suite of conservation strategies throughout the San Luis Valley. The project will bolster existing and construct new riparian fence, restore more than 16 miles of stream habitat for Rio Grande cutthroat trout, implement a fish screen and water lease at a key diversion point, and prioritize future Rio Grande cutthroat trout conservation efforts.
  • Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation ($39,840) will improve the condition of headwaters streams of the Rio Grande in Colorado by restoring 5 miles of stream channel and 200 acres of riparian wetland habitat in Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF). The project will characterize North American beaver populations, construct beaver dam analogs and reintroduce 50 beavers to key locations in RGNF to benefit watershed health, riparian habitat and native aquatic species like the Rio Grande chub, Rio Grande sucker and Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
  • Rio Puerco Alliance ($151,684) will restore Encinado Creek in New Mexico to reconnect the floodplain and minimize bank erosion. The project will lower stream temperatures and reducing surface runoff, creating improved habitat for native species of conservation concern like Rio Grande cutthroat trout and North American beaver. Additionally, a new barrier will protect Rio Grande cutthroat trout from incursion from invasive species.

In the fall of 2018, the NFWF Board of Directors approved the Southwest Rivers Business Plan, a roadmap developed through collaboration with fish and wildlife experts and partners, which will guide investments and provide measures of successful conservation outcomes in this region. For more information on the Rio Grande Headwaters, and the broader Southwest Rivers Program, please visit

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and generated a conservation impact of more than $5.3 billion. Learn more at

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

About the U.S.D.A. Forest Service
Established in 1905, the U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides one-on-one, personalized advice on the best solutions to meet the unique conservation and business goals of those who grow our nation’s food and fiber.  NRCS helps landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the health of our air, water, and soil. NRCS also generates, manages, and shares the data, research and standards that enable partners and policymakers to make decisions informed by objective, reliable science. In simpler terms, NRCS’s focus is “Helping People Help the Land.” For more information, visit

About The Trinchera Blanca Foundation
The Trinchera Blanca Foundation, the Colorado affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation, founded by Louis Bacon in 1992, supports organizations committed to protecting land, water and wildlife habitat in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The Trinchera Blanca Foundation also supports community programs dedicated to improving quality of life in the surrounding region. For more information, visit​.