New Mexico Youth Hunting Area Enhanced

DU and NMDGF improved Bernardo Waterfowl Area.


The water control structure before (left) and after (right) replacement.

Photo © Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) improved a youth hunting area on Bernardo Waterfowl Area near Belen, New Mexico.

The 1,700-acre Bernardo Waterfowl Area is part of the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex, a state-owned and managed set of waterfowl areas along the middle Rio Grande. The complex contains four wildlife management areas in Valencia and Socorro counties, namely Bernardo, La Joya, Casa Colorada and Belen waterfowl areas. Together with the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to the south, they feed half of the waterbirds that winter in the Middle Rio Grande Basin.

The Bernardo Waterfowl Area is special as it contains a three-mile vehicle tour loop and three elevated viewing and photography platforms, one of which is handicapped accessible. In fall and winter, observers may see more than 25,000 snow geese and 12,000 sandhill cranes, many species of ducks and the occasional bald eagle. 

This project improved NMDGF's ability to use winter water to provide critical resources needed by migrating and wintering ducks. The water diversion system had a leaking gate that was installed in the 1960s. DU removed the degraded structure and installed a new  gate. The modern water-control structure will help NMDGF deliver water throughout the area more efficiently, improving the quality of wetlands and making good use of water in the face of climate change, prolonged drought and continued depletion of river flows. The project was supported in part by a grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Council.