Request for Proposals: Contractor to Support Implementation of Future Water Leasing Opportunities in the Middle Rio Grande Native Water Leasing Pilot Program and Other Southwest Rivers Watersheds

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

USA 🇺🇸



The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) seeks a qualified Contractor to assist us in the co-management, development and implementation of future water leasing opportunities for the Middle Rio Grande Native Water Leasing Pilot Program and other focal watersheds within the Southwest Rivers Program. The Southwest Rivers Program is designed to improve riparian habitat for native species in the Rio Grande and Pecos River watersheds and restore Chihuahuan Desert grasslands to benefit migratory grassland birds. You can obtain a copy of the Program’s Business Plan on NFWF’s website.


While the program includes a variety of goals, the scope of work under this contract is in support of the Pilot Leasing Program described in Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) Cooperative Agreement R17AC00119, specifically development of future water leasing opportunities and associated program development activities to conserve populations of Rio Grande silvery minnow within the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. NFWF intends to use the work products to continue development of the Middle Rio Grande Native Water Leasing Program into a sustainable water management and species conservation tool for stakeholders in the Middle Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico. The target date to complete the goals of the Pilot Water Leasing Program is September 2023.

The Contractor may additionally be asked by NFWF to contribute to the development of conservation strategies for other aquatic and riparian species within focal watersheds of the greater Southwest Rivers landscape.

Program goals to be addressed through this contract include:

  • Development of a native water leasing pilot program in the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) that secures water for Rio Grande silvery minnow conservation.
  • Provision of infrastructure improvements within the MRGCD to facilitate water conservation, leased water delivery and riparian habitat enhancement.
  • Restoration and enhancement of habitat within the MRGCD to benefit Rio Grande silvery minnow.
  • Application of water leasing strategies for species conservation in the wider Southwest Rivers Program landscape.


The contractor will serve as Co-Project Manager, supporting and assisting Southwest Rivers Program Manager Kirstin Neff in implementation of the Middle Rio Grande Native Water Leasing Pilot Program activities for program Year 5 (FY22) with the potential to extend into year 6 (FY23), subject to funding availability.

Specific responsibilities are presented in the list of contract tasks below.


  • Support design and implementation of leasing program guidelines, pricing options and communication materials for irrigation season 2022 (and 2023, subject to funding availability) based on participation, pricing and irrigator survey results from the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
  • Support NFWF subgrantees in pilot program development, including implementation of structural and policy changes associated with development of MRGCD’s Conservation Advisory Committee (CAC).
  • Support NFWF subgrantees in designing and implementing habitat restoration activities and infrastructure improvement projects.
  • Track and support regulatory and institutional compliance activities led by Reclamation as well as those at the state and local levels.
  • Support program outreach and communications activities
  • Develop strategies for adaptive management and leasing program refinement based on implementation experience.
  • Support NFWF staff in refining program activities in collaboration with Reclamation and subgrantees.
  • Support NFWF staff in completing programmatic reporting.
  • Travel to New Mexico as needed for program meetings with stakeholders when safe and appropriate.
  • Track New Mexico state water law and policy developments that may impact program implementation.

Deliverables: Design and implementation of 2022 (and 2023, subject to funding availability) Pilot Leasing Program guidelines, pricing options and communication materials; Analysis of 2021 and 2022 leasing program success and strategies for adaptive management of subsequent leasing seasons based on species priorities and funding availability; Attending, setting agenda, and taking notes at bi-weekly meetings with NFWF and Reclamation staff to keep program development and implementation activities on track; Attendance and programmatic support at monthly MRGCD Conservation Advisory Committee Meetings; regular meetings with NFWF subgrantees; Review of and reporting back to NFWF staff regarding MRGCD Board of Directors meeting minutes and/or audio; Support refinement of programmatic budget.


Required expertise of the team includes advanced skills in natural resources or agricultural economics and water market design. Offerors should have experience working in New Mexico’s Rio Grande watershed and with the Bureau of Reclamation, and should have familiarity with New Mexico water law and policy, water infrastructure and operations in the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the Final 2016 Biological Opinion for the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow. Offerors should have demonstrated ability in implementation of complex resource management programs through collaboration and relationship-building, and working within cross-jurisdictional relationships between local, state, and federal water management agencies. Preferred expertise includes seasonal forbearance agreements, rotational fallowing techniques and market research methods, including survey techniques. Experience working in or knowledge of other Southwestern watersheds with the native species conservation needs, for example the Gila River, Salt River, or Virgin River watersheds, is also of particular interest to NFWF.