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Creating Refuges in Your Own Backyard

By Janine Doyle posted 04-16-2020 03:51 PM



The Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is dedicated to helping shape and support the development of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. They foster a community conservation ethic by promoting environmental and cultural awareness through public educational programs and recreational opportunities.

One of the Friends of Valle de Oro's newest endeavors is their ABQ Backyard Refuge (ABQBYR) program, which allows public land management agencies and community members to work together to restore and maintain robust habitats for wildlife and people to seek refuge.

Read on for more about this program from the Friends of Valle de Oro Executive Director Aryn LaBrake:

"In urban areas, places for wildlife become fewer and farther between. Fortunately, in Albuquerque, NM, our backyard is home to a multitude of public lands where both wildlife and human communities benefit from ecologically rich habitat that exists within the city and its immediate surroundings. But as important as public lands are to the conservation of wildlife, it is also essential that we do not think of protecting wildlife as something that only happens on the public lands we visit on the weekends. Instead, the Valle de Oro Refuge and Friends are working to meet people where they are to build a network of conservation stewards in our local community.

Together, with over 35 partners across our metro-area, we are advocating for public lands in the Middle Rio Grande Watershed and creating connector habitats between our systems of public lands. Through this program, public land management agencies and community members are working together to restore and maintain robust habitat for wildlife and people to seek refuge.


An exciting component of the ABQBYR, and what makes it unique, is its focus on accessibility and its ability to make deep connections between the large-scale conservation projects on public lands and efforts of residents in their own homes. The program is free, provides education resources and consultations for community members looking to make changes and allows for everyone, regardless of the amount of space or capacity they have, to contribute to this idea of supporting urban wildlife and our local watershed.

In addition, the program is specific to the needs of wildlife and our watershed in the Albuquerque area, creating a clear direction for families to participate. Participants are encouraged to certify their yard, patio or deck as an official ABQ Backyard Refuge, highlighting the important changes they are making in your personal space to support wildlife.

Since launching the ABQ BYR program in September 2019, we have 230 individuals who have downloaded or received our Introductory Guide and regionally specific plant list to get them started in learning the importance of building habitat in the urban landscape, and simple ways they can start to build their backyard refuge. We have 300 individuals/families following our Facebook page as well.

Our next phase of the program is to launch the certification component, where individuals who make changes in their yard will have the opportunity to certify their backyard, patio or balcony as an ABQ Backyard Refuge and get a sign for their yard to communicate to their neighbors and community why they are making changes in their space. With the onset of COVID-19, this process is currently on hold. However, we are currently focusing on gathering digital resources, kids activities, video tutorials and more from our Partner organizations to promote on our website and social media for our followers to take advantage of their time at home to design and start building their ABQ Backyard Refuge. Our digital resources page can be accessed at"