Grantee Stories – New Mexico Volunteers For The Outdoors

A volunteer group working outdoors.

New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors (NMVFO) is an all-volunteer, non-partisan organization dedicated to improving trails, outdoor facilities and wildlife habitat on New Mexico public lands. Since 1982, NMVFO has organized, managed, promoted and recruited volunteers to work on outdoor service projects throughout the state.

In 2022, the organization celebrated its 40th anniversary with a picnic honoring founding and long-term members. Last year, its 185 volunteers took on 34 projects, totaling 4,850 hours of donated time and an estimated cost savings for public land agencies of over $138,000. Projects included removing 5,200 feet of barbed wire fencing; building and repairing bridges, walkways and trails; painting signs; removing invasive plants and deadfalls; and constructing miles of new trails. Public land agencies (federal, state and local) that benefited from NMVFO’s able assistance included Albuquerque Open Spaces, Cibola and Santa Fe National Forests, Galisteo Basin Preserve, Salinas Pueblo National Monument, Valles Caldera, Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area and Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge.

“With a total budget of just over $20,000, we appreciate that Albuquerque Community Foundation sees value in what we’re doing,” says Mike Timmer, chair of the all-volunteer board of directors, who went on his first NMVFO project in 2015 and has been involved ever since. “Then add in the more than 1,200 hours volunteered by the board and others to maintain operations. We couldn’t do it without the Foundation’s support to keep the organization running.”

During two years of pandemic closures and last year’s Hermit Peak/Calf Canyon fire, NMVFO had to cancel or postpone projects due to safety concerns. Yet the organization saw an increase in interest and participation, with projects quickly developing waitlists of people eager to contribute their time and energy to improving public lands. Volunteers also maintain tools and equipment, prepare food for those on projects and work behind the scenes administering the organization.

Although the group is based in Albuquerque, its projects are statewide, and it attracts volunteers from across New Mexico and other states and countries. A diverse group, NMVFO participants range from teenagers to retirees, representing every walk of life.

Whether stabilizing archeological sites, refurbishing campgrounds or improving wildlife habitats, volunteers often have the chance to hike and camp off the beaten path in remote or restricted areas.

“People want to get out into the outdoors and give back to our great state,” says Timmer. “We’re improving access to and enjoyment of New Mexico’s public lands whether they be in urban open spaces or wilderness areas. Our projects vary from one-day local projects, to multi-day car-camping projects, and even four-day backpacking trips into wilderness areas. We welcome volunteers of all skill levels who want to explore and improve our public lands.”