And thanks to Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, this gem is on its way to permanent protection with the introduction of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 2468).
Columbine Hondo boasts roughly 45,000 acres of mountains that serve as the protector of precious drinking water for downstream cities and villages. The headwaters, or beginnings, of the Red and Rio Hondo rivers are located in Columbine Hondo and provide drinking water to the cities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.
The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area -- located in Taos County, NM -- was designated as part of the 1980 New Mexico Wilderness Act. Since that time, it has been managed as wilderness. Due to its lush and roadless forests, Columbine Hondo is the home to elk, mountain lion, deer, black bear and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Protection of this area will provide a missing link of protected wildlife habitat, as is sits between the Wheeler Peak Wilderness and the Latir Peak Wilderness.
People come from all over the world to visit Taos and its surrounding lands and waters. Columbine Hondo’s world-class recreation attracts hunters, anglers, hikers, campers and horseback riders. So much of Taos County’s economy is based on tourism, with the draw being the beauty of its mountains and the opportunity to explore them. In fact, New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy adds $3.8 billion annually to the state’s economy and supports 47,000 jobs. Permanently protecting Columbine Hondo as wilderness will also protect long-term sustainable jobs.
Local communities have come together to protect Columbine Hondo for its water, wildlife and recreation. We want to thank New Mexico Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall for introducing the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act so that future generations can experience all that it has to offer.