The Belen Marsh
Helping to preserve Belen's only wetland


         OUR MISSION
         WHAT YOU CAN DO
         BELEN MARSH VIDEO (Summer 2018)

What is Belen Marsh

Aerial satellite photo of Belen Marsh and its community - Photo by Google

The wetland is 16.5 acres located along Don Felipe Road, just south of Belen's I-25 Bypass and near Taco Bell/Pizza Hut Express.

It is a depressional wetland, artificially created when soil from the area was taken for local road construction projects. Because the regional water table is just below the land's surface, excavation caused water to pool and form a wetland.

The wetland is managed by the Valencia Fair Association, a nonprofit organization, which would like to use the property to support its county fair activities, including the expansion of parking. The association began backfilling the marsh in May 2008.

Valencia County organizations and residents have joined together as the Belen Marsh Committee, with support from the Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico, to preserve the wetland in a way that meets the needs of the Valencia Fair Association, nearby residents and businesses.

Our Mission

Birds cool their feet in the water Belen Marsh - Photo by Timothy Mandeville

The mission of the Belen Marsh Committee is to protect and conserve the area known as Belen Marsh, which provides critical habitat for nesting and migrating birds. Protection of this local wetlands area for future generations, through a collaborative enterprise with the property owners, managers and local citizens, is our primary goal.

We will work cooperatively with the Valencia Fair Association, the wetland's managing organization, and its constituents in a way that is compatible with local and private interests, realizing an ecological, educational and economic asset to the association, the community of Belen and Valencia County as a whole.

The Belen Marsh Committee meets to discuss the Belen Marsh, and has reached out to the Valencia Fair Association for collaboration.

The committee is supporting the development of birding tourism for the Belen Marsh that will include potential sources of revenue for the Valencia Fair Association and grant funding to improve the marsh area, possibly including Don Felipe Road and the broader fairgrounds property.

The Belen Marsh committee has begun researching and applying for grant funding with help from the Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico. The committee accepts donations through Audubon. Please see later pages in this packet for more information about donating to the cause.

History & Significance

Belen Marsh is 16.5 acres of wetland in Valencia County, New Mexico, just outside of the City of Belen.

Artificially created when soil from the area was used for local road and overpass construction projects, the marsh became a depressional wetland because the regional water table is just below the land's surface. Soil excavation caused water to pool and form a wetland in the early 1990s.

Belen Marsh has become a winter home for migratory waterfowl and springtime nesting site for a number of species of large migratory wading birds. It is an important stop on the Central Flyway for migratory birds, particularly shorebirds. It is one of the few suitable wetlands where shorebirds can stop on their long journey from the arctic to Central and South America in the fall.

To date, 178 species of birds have been documented at the site. Today the marsh is an attraction for local and statewide birders, who come to Belen and the marsh to see the birds that visit and nest.

Immediate Challenges

Concrete at Belen Marsh - Photo by Belen Marsh Committee

Unfortunately, Belen Marsh has had its share of problems. Over the years, the wetland has become a dumping ground for trash, ranging from fast-food wrappers and plastic bags to tires and cement.

Standing water at the site and in nearby agricultural fields is notorious among residents and businesses as a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the late summer. In the past, the Belen Marsh Committee treated the wetlands during mosquito breeding season with Bacillus thuringiensis that kills developing mosquitoes before they become breeding, biting adults (including those which may transmit West Nile virus to horses and equine encephalitis and heartworm disease to dogs and cats. It can be applied to areas that can contain aquatic life, fish and plants, areas used by or in contact with humans, animals, horses, livestock, pets birds or wildlife. A variety of it is used by organic farmers, for control of cabbage loopers and other larva.). However, these insects breed in other nearby standing water and some continue to blame the marsh.

In 2008, The Valencia County Fair Association initiated backfilling of the marsh. It was halted when U.S. Fish and Game enforced the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. While additional filling has not occurred, the Fair Association states they will resume filling if dirt becomes available.

The Belen Marsh Committee coordinates two annual Clean-up Days, one in April and the other in October, in association with the City of Belen's Trek for Trash. Concerned volunteers and neighbors helped remove trash from the marsh. A typical clean-up yields 125 bags of trash, including beer bottles, wire, discarded wood, and automotive parts, as well as a myriad of other stuff, such oil barrels, building material, and tires.

While the efforts help beautify the marsh, larger trash such as broken concrete still clutters the landscape.

Working Cooperatively

Valencia County organizations have joined together as the "Belen Marsh Committee," with help from the Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico, to preserve the wetland in a way that meets the needs of the Valencia Fair Association, nearby residents and local businesses.

The wetland is owned by shareholders and their descendants and managed by the Valencia Fair Association, a nonprofit organization that is seeking to use the property to support county fair activities and generate revenue for the organization's other activities and facilities.

With eco-friendly development of the property, Belen Marsh can be a real economic asset to the City of Belen, local businesses and the Valencia Fair Association as an integrated extension of the fairgrounds and local attraction. Audubon New Mexico has documented the economic benefits of preserving natural habitats.

Belen Marsh is already popular with New Mexico birders. According to national statistics, 31 percent of adults participate in birding activities. Studies have shown that so-called birding hotspots generate significant revenue for local communities. Areas near Belen, including Rio Communities, Bernardo and Soccoro, have begun to tap into eco-tourism as a consistent source of revenue.

List of Belen Marsh Birds

Black-necked Stilt flying over Belen Marsh - Photo by Timothy Mandeville

Pied-billed GrebeRock Dove
Great EgretEurasian Collared-Dove
Snowy Egret*White-winged Dove
Cattle Egret*Mourning Dove
Green HeronGreater Roadrunner
White-faced IbisBlack-chinned Hummingbird
Glossy IbisLadder-backed Woodpecker
Tundra SwanBelted Kingfisher
Snow GooseBlack Phoebe
GadwallSay's Phoebe
Mallard*Eastern Kingbird
American WigeonWestern Kingbird
Blue-winged Teal*Loggerhead Shrike
Cinnamon Teal*American Crow
Green-winged TealCommon Raven
RedheadChihuahuan Raven
CanvasbackNorthern Rough-winged Swallow
Ring-necked DuckCliff Swallow
Lesser ScaupBarn Swallow
Northern ShovelerWinter Wren
Ruddy Duck*Marsh Wren
Cooper's HawkNorthern Mockingbird
Northern HarrierEuropean Starling
Sharp-shinned HawkYellow Warbler
Swainson's HawkCommon Yellowthroat*
American KestrelYellow-rumped Warbler
Turkey VultureAmerican Redstart
Ring-necked PheasantWilson's Warbler
American Coot*Green-tailed Towhee
Virginia Rail*Brewer's Sparrow
Killdeer*Lark Sparrow
Semi-palmated PloverWhite-crowned Sparrow
Black-necked Stilt*Blue Grosbeak
American Avocet*Red-winged Blackbird*
Lesser YellowlegsWestern Meadowlark
Greater YellowlegsYellow-headed Blackbird
Solitary SandpiperGreat-tailed Grackle*
Spotted SandpiperHouse Finch
Western SandpiperPine Siskin
Semi-palmated SandpiperAmerican Goldfinch
Least SandpiperLesser Goldfinch
Baird's SandpiperHouse Sparrow
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper*Have nested at the Marsh
Long-billed Dowitcher
Short-Billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Wilson's Phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope
Franklin's Gull
Black Tern

What You Can Do

The Belen Marsh Committee needs your help preserving the Belen Marsh. To help, please consider supporting us financially:

c/o Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico
PO Box 30002
Albuquerque, NM 87190-0002

Contact us to attend our weekly meeting, to be added to our list of supporters, or for more information:

Eileen Beaulieu, Chair
Los Lunas, NM
(505) 249-7929

The Belen Marsh Committee operates with the support of the Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico.



Albuquerque Wildlife Federation

Audubon Southwest

Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico

New Mexico Wildlife Federation

Amigos de la Sevilleta

Friends of Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area

Hawks Aloft, Inc.


BRAVE_E, Inc., d/b/a
Elizabeth Hurst-Waitz, President

Kare*n*Growing Greenhouses
Karen Barela, Owner

Marty's Muffler Shop
Phil Martinez, Owner

Families & Individuals

The Family of Laura West
Albuquerque, NM

The Family of Ryan Beaulieu
Los Lunas, NM

Celestyn M. Brozek
Albuquerque, NM

Sharon Fullingim
Socorro, NM

Rebecca Gracey
Albuquerque, NM

Judy Liddell
Albuquerque, NM

Lee Hopwood
Albuquerque, NM

Robert Munro
Albuquerque, NM

Jerah Cordova
Belen, NM

Donna Royer
Albuquerque, NM


c/o Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico
PO Box 30002
Albuquerque, NM 87190-0002


The Belen Marsh Committee
Eileen Beaulieu, Chair
Los Lunas, NM

Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico
A Chapter of the National Audubon Society
PO Box 30002
Albuquerque, NM 87190-0002
(505) 255-7622

© 2009-2018 Belen Marsh Committee

The Belen Marsh is private property owned by shareholders and managed by the Valencia Fair Association. This website was designed and is maintained by the Belen Marsh Committee, a committee of the Valencia Fair Association.