The Wilderness Society today applauded New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Luján for re-introducing legislation to protect Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico.
The legislation would protect 235,000 acres of critical animal habitat, the Rio Grande -- a vital source of water for the entire state of New Mexico -- and heavily visited outdoor recreation areas, including two new Wilderness Areas totaling approximately 24,000 acres. It would also allow for continued grazing, hunting, gathering of firewood and other traditional uses.
Hispano leaders and organizations, small business owners and the Taos and Mora Valley Chambers of Commerce, sportsmen and ranchers, the Taos Pueblo and local elected officials all came together to ask Congress and President Obama to protect the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau.
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.
Therefore, The Wilderness Society applauds Sens. Udall and Heinrich and Rep. Luján for also reaffirming their ongoing support in their press releases for President Obama to designate Rio Grande del Norte National Monument by using the Antiquities Act.
“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. “We join Sens. Udall and Heinrich and Rep. Luján in asking President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to protect this American icon as a national monument.”
Rio Grande del Norte contains some of the most ecologically significant lands in northern New Mexico that provide excellent habitat for elk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and great horned owl, in addition to other species. It will also protect Ute Mountain, which towers over the region, and the vast recreational opportunities contained within the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau.
According to a 2012 economic study, a national monument designation in northern New Mexico is estimated to fuel $15 million in new economic benefits, such as boosting tourism and supporting ongoing grazing.
The Wilderness Society hopes Rio Grande del Norte will be permanently protected soon and looks forward to President Obama creating a broader, second term agenda that includes a more balanced approach to conservation and energy development on public lands.