Rio Grande Del Norte: Work We Are Doing

Ro Grande
Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico boasts incredible lands, waters and wildlife. We are working to protect this gem that includes the Rio Grande Gorge and Ute Mountain.

There are some places so beautiful, you needn’t ask why they are worthy of protection. New Mexico's Rio Grande del Norte is one such place. Known for the Rio Grand Gorge and the Ute Mountain, this area is under threat from different kinds of development.

There are some places so beautiful, you needn’t ask why they are worthy of protection. New Mexico's Rio Grande del Norte is one such place.

At Wilderness, we're working with partners on the ground to permanently protect this gem as a National Conservation Area. Recently, we worked with New Mexico citizens, local community member and conservation groups to present a plan for protecting the area to New Mexico’s congressional delegation, which was introduced in Congress as the Rio Grande del Norte Conservation Area Establishment Act.

Supporters for this act include:

  • Sen. Jeff Bingaman, (D, N.M.), who reintroduced the legislation
  • Sen. Tom Udall (D, N.M.), who co-sponsored the legislation
  • Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D, N.M.-3), who introduced the House version
  • Rep. Martin Heinrich (D, N.M.-1), who co-sponsored the legislation

What the legislation will protect

The Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act would protect more than 21,000 acres of Wilderness within a 236,980 acre National Conservation Area.

It would ensure protection of some of the most ecologically significant lands in the state of New Mexico and help secure traditional ways of life in Northern New Mexico for residents and local hunters, ranchers and outfitters.

The legislation also is the first Congressional recognition of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the rights of traditional uses of the land.

Support for the legislation

Many diverse groups have been vital to the work to designate the Rio Grande del Norte as a National Conservation Area, including:

  • Local towns and businesses
  • Ranchers
  • Sportsmen
  • Land Grant and acequia associations

Why protect Rio Grande del Norte

There are many reasons to protect New Mexico's Rio Grande del Norte.


These combined areas are highly prized by bird watchers. They are situated in the middle of a major western migratory bird route, the Rio Grande Flyway.


The area is rich in wildlife, including elk, deer, bighorn sheep and pronghorn. Golden eagles and peregrine falcons nest in the rocky nooks of the Gorge.


Outdoor recreational opportunities abound, including horseback riding, hiking, rafting, swimming, fishing and big-game hunting.

Outstanding scenic vistas

These areas include the dramatic Rio Grande Gorge, wildflower-covered plains, the forested slopes of Ute Mountain, Carson National Forest and the snow-capped peaks of the San Juan Mountains in the distance.

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