San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program Wins America’s Great Outdoors Program Award

In May 2013 the San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program was presented an award under America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) program. The project was nominated for the award by Mark McKinstry with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) for its recent habitat improvements using a unique partnership with federal, non-profit, state, and tribal cooperators.
The AGO program is an initiative within the Department of the Interior begun under President Obama and past Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. President Obama launched the AGO Initiative to develop a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda. AGO takes as its premise that lasting conservation solutions should come from the American people—that the protection of our natural heritage is a non-partisan objective that is shared by all Americans. Connecting Americans to the great outdoors, conserving and restoring America’s great outdoors, and working together for America’s great outdoors are the three major pillars of the program. AGO consists of five conservation and outdoor initiatives. These initiatives include:
1)   Landscapes, the protection of America’s large, rural landscapes
2)  Recreation, the support of outdoor recreation access and opportunities to connect Americans to the outdoors
3)  Rivers, the restoration of our country’s rich legacy of rivers and waterways
4)  Urban, the connection of city-dwelling American to urban parks and green spaces, and
5)  Youth, the development of the next generation of environmental stewards.
The San Juan Habitat Restoration Project was nominated under the Rivers’ initiative and was one of 50 projects selected nation-wide to receive the award. The award states in part that:
The San Juan River Habitat Restoration Project in New Mexico is designated a keystone conservation and outdoor recreation project under President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors program. Here, we celebrate the partnerships and collaboration that resulted in significant wildlife habitat restoration and species protection in the watershed.”
The San Juan Habitat Restoration Project was a cooperative effort between the San Juan Recovery Implementation Program, the Navajo Nation Indian Tribe, the State of New Mexico, The Nature Conservancy, and Keller-Bliesner Engineering. These entities worked together to restore and create fish habitat on the San Juan River in New Mexico to assist in the recovery of two endangered fish species, the razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow, and provide habitat for other native aquatic species. As part of the project six individual sites on the San Juan River were restored resulting in 3.5 miles of secondary channel creation, several acres of backwater habitat, and the removal of 6.5 acres of nonnative riparian vegetation. Monitoring in 2012 showed that endangered and other native fish were using the new habitats only three months after creation.
All construction costs for the project were funded by the state of New Mexico’s Surface Water Quality Bureau, with the other partners contributing significant in-kind contributions for planning, permitting, land access, and monitoring. The project was managed by Karen Menetrey with the New Mexico Environment Department and Patrick McCarthy with The Nature Conservancy. Due to the success of this project, additional work is underway to restore additional river habitat along the San Juan using private funds contributed to The Nature Conservancy.
More information on the AGO program can be found at and more information about the San Juan Habitat Restoration project can be obtained from Patrick McCarthy with the Nature Conservancy [email protected]; (505) 946-2037. For additional information about Reclamation’s participation in AGO contact Mark McKinstry at 801-524-3835; [email protected].