Keeping New Mexico Wild: Find out which striking lands are up for protections

Organ Mountains, New Mexico. Photo by oflazer, Flickr.

From rugged canyons to towering pinnacles, New Mexico’s wild public lands represent some of the wildest country left in the Rocky Mountain West. But these places also face a number of threats, including oil and gas drilling, off-road vehicle abuse, and urban sprawl. In September, after years of hard work, The Wilderness Society and our partners, including the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, celebrated the introduction of two new wilderness bills aimed to protect some of New Mexico’s irreplaceable natural and cultural treasures from north to south.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act

It has been said that the Organ Mountains are the backdrop for one of the most breathtaking scenic views in the state of New Mexico. This rugged range gets its name from the granite needle-like peaks at the height of the range, similar to the pipes on a pipe organ.

Located just outside of Las Cruces in southern New Mexico, the Organ Mountains have long been the center of enjoyment for many in southern New Mexico, with ample opportunities for recreation.

New Mexico Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall introduced the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act in September.

For several years now, The Wilderness Society has been working with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, New Mexico Wildlife Federation and others in advocating for the protections of this special area for several years.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act would protect around 360,000 acres of wild public lands in Doña Ana County. It would designate 259,000 acres as wilderness and 100,000 acres as national conservation areas. In addition to the Organ Mountains, land on and around the Robledo, Doña Ana and Potrillo mountains would be protected.

Sportsmen, business leaders, conservationists and local politicians are working together to protect the wild lands of Doña Ana County, an important part of New Mexico’s natural heritage.

El Rio Grande Del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act

Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico. Photo by jclarson, Flickr.While you may find yourself getting lost in the wordy name of this bill, it might be better to imagine yourself getting lost exploring gorges, mountains, plains and rivers within the striking region of Northern New Mexico.

Introduced in April by New Mexico’s Democratic Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, this act ensures protection of some of the most ecologically significant lands in the state of New Mexico.

Almost 236,000 acres of land would be designated as a National Conservation Area with this bill. Two areas within these acres would be official Wilderness areas — 13,420 acre Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and 8,000 acre Rio San Antonio Wilderness.

Places like the prominent Ute Mountain (with an elevation of over 10,000 feet) and Rio Grande Gorge would be protected under this act, guaranteeing nature lovers everywhere a chance to explore the area, take in the awesome view, and simply breathe in fresh air.

Northern New Mexico is a wildlife haven, particularly for birds. Bird watchers can continue to enjoy everything from hummingbirds to herons as the lands that will be protected are a major migration route for many kinds of birds.

This legislation also helps secure traditional ways of life in Northern New Mexico for hunters, ranchers, and outfitters.

photos:
Organ Mountains, New Mexico. Photo by oflazer, Flickr.
Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico. Photo by jclarson, Flickr.

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