Rio Grande Gorge
Flikr creative commons: jessicareeder
In northern New Mexico is a gem known as Rio Grande del Norte - a region of wild lands that surround the Rio Grande River. Those who love this area have long been waiting for it to receive the protection it deserves.
Protection moved one step forward recently when New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Luján re-introduced legislation to protect the Rio Grande del Norte. The legislation would protect 235,000 acres of critical animal habitat while allowing for continued grazing, hunting, gathering of firewood and other traditional uses.
By protecting Rio Grande del Norte, this legislation will conserve:
- Some of the most ecologically significant lands in northern New Mexico
- Habitats for elk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and great horned owl, in addition to other species
- The majestic Ute Mountain, which towers over the region
The question is whether Congress will pass the legislation.
Given the frequent Congressional lagging on conservation bills, President Obama can also protect this remarkable area by designating it as a national monument, using the Antiquities Act to bypass Congressional stalls.
Here is a map of the region, courtesy of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance:
“We commend Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Congressman Ben Ray Luján for listening to the people who love Rio Grande del Norte and working hard to protect it for future generations,” said Michael Casaus, the New Mexico Regional Director of The Wilderness Society.
Will the new Congress build a better wilderness reputation?
While legislation to protect Rio Grande del Norte was introduced during the 112th Congress, it failed to pass - along with dozens of other conservation measures in the first Congress since World War II to not protect a single new acre as a national park, monument or wilderness area.
We hope to see more legislators have the initiative, courage and foresight to endeavor to protect spectacular wild lands like Rio Grande del Norte. More importantly - we hope more legislators will work to get wilderness bills not merely introduced but passed into law!
Check out this episode of "This American Land" featuring Rio Grande del Norte:
- Win for wildlands! President Obama designates five new national monuments
- Best Recreation in new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
- Senate committee passes Rio Grande del Norte Wilderness legislation