Rio Mora NWR is a 4,224 acre property in Watrous, New Mexico that is surrounded by a matrix of private and public land within the million acre Rio Mora Watershed. An example of one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, the shortgrass prairie provides habitat for a variety of native species, is a critical resource for ranching, farming and local communities, and is important social and cultural resource.
Inadequate land use practices, overgrazing, disruption of natural fire regimes, and declines in species that play an especially important role in grassland ecosystems, such as bison and beaver, has degraded grassland ecosystems across western North America. In fact, only ~4% of native pre-European settlement grasslands remain in North America.
Using sound social and ecological science, Denver Zoo is working closely with partners and community members to restore ecosystem function and promote the recovery of native species across the watershed. These efforts include (1) the reintroduction of bison to the landscape to promote grassland productivity and control invasive species, (2) the promotion habitat for native species through the recovery of riparian habitat through arroyo and river restoration, (3) assessing the impact of restoration of grassland ecosystem processes on plant and animal communities, and (4) engaging local communities and landowners to restore grassland ecosystem process and promote land stewardship.
Denver Zoo and partners have welcomed the challenge and opportunity to restore Rio Mora into a functioning ecosystem through research, restoration and education. Today, our restoration efforts have enhanced the habitat for native animal and plant species.