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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Leveraging Geographic Information Systems to Promote Collaboration at New Mexico’s Isleta Reach

The “Isleta Reach” of the Rio Grande is a hotspot of avian activity—and one of New Mexico’s remnant landscapes along this essential river. Because of this, Audubon Southwest and numerous federal, state, and local partners are focusing conservation and rehabilitation efforts here. To further our work in this remarkable riparian habitat, Audubon is proud to launch the Isleta Reach Hub which has been nearly a year in the making and is now ready to be shared with the public. We’d also like to extend gratitude to National Audubon Society’s GIS Enterprise Department for lending us one of their talented Dangermond Fellows and helping us with the initial development of the hub.

This new hub resource utilized a web-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tool called ArcGIS Hub, a configurable online platform that engages viewers (including lay people) with interactive maps, data, and web applications tools. An ArcGIS Hub is a collaborative space that allows other project members to work together and build a tool that brings attention to the important work being done, in this case the Isleta Reach Stewardship Association (IRSA). In addition to maps and data, the Isleta Reach Hub contains aerial imagery, up-to-date scientific studies, bird species information, recreational opportunities, and much more.

The idea for the Isleta Reach Hub developed organically via input from members of IRSA – a passionate group of individuals dedicated to the long-term stewardship of the riparian habitat in their own backyard. IRSA members needed a way to distribute and store information about the Isleta Reach. The Hub is designed to be both educational and entertaining—scroll through time series photos to see how the river has changed, search for birding hotspots, or read about Audubon’s habitat rehabilitation projects, and learn more about the Rio Grande in general.

The Rio Grande, one of the longest and most important rivers in the American Southwest, flows for nearly 1800 miles. Beginning in the mountains of south-central Colorado, the Rio Grande neatly bisects the state of New Mexico from north to south and delineates the southern border of Texas and Mexico before ending in a sandy delta in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Rio Grande in New Mexico today is much different than it was 100 years ago. Confined between flood-control levees for much of its extent, with a large portion of its water diverted for cities, towns, homes and farming, the river is not as wild as it once was. However, the Isleta Reach of this mighty river still retains much of its historic function, and is a place where native species such as the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo – where both species receive federal protections under the endangered species act – can live and thrive. Natural spring pulse floods still scour the floodplain, and a canopy of Rio Grande Cottonwoods and Goodding’s Willows towers over dense stands of coyote willows and open sandbars and mudflats. It begins at the south boundary of the Pueblo of Isleta and ends 48 miles south at the San Acacia Diversion Dam.

We hope that this Hub will help focus attention on the challenges and exciting opportunities found in the Isleta Reach and allow us to better connect with our community members. And even if you have never heard of the Isleta Reach, we’d love to hear what you think.

For any questions about the work in Isleta Reach, the team contact information is listed at the bottom the hub’s homepage. For questions or feedback related to the ArcGIS Hub itself, you may email Elija Flores (GIS Technician, Audubon Southwest) at elija.flores@audubon.org.

Click here to access the Isleta Reach Hub.

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