Pecos Wilderness

Near the south end of the Rocky Mountains, canyons, mesas and evergreen forest highlight the rugged Pecos Wilderness. While much of this landscape is protected, development still threatens key roadless areas as well as clean water, air and recreation.

The existing Pecos Wilderness spans over 220,000 acres of the Carson and Santa Fe national forests. Its 150 miles of streams feed the Pecos, Mora, Rio Pueblo and Gallinas rivers, making up part of a watershed that is essential to wildlife and surrounding communities. These lands and waters harbor thriving populations of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, elk, Rio Grande cutthroat trout and more.

We are working with partners in New Mexico to protect the wildness and traditions of the Pecos, and preserve a rare piece of “roadless” wildland from deterioration.

Work we are doing

Santa Fe National Forest. Credit: taylorandayumi, flickr.

The Wilderness Society is leading a diverse local coalition – including sportsmen, elected officials, Pueblo leaders, business owners and conservationists -  to protect more than 120,000 acres in the Pecos by incorporating roadless areas into the existing Pecos Wilderness and designating some lands as Special Management Areas.

The proposal would create Special Management Areas to protect current uses, including world-class It could also enhance other outdoor recreation opportunities including hunting and fishing, backpacking and camping.

Protecting the Pecos will ensure that future generations are able to reap the benefits that so many New Mexico communities already depend on.

Wildlands designation

Thousands of acres of roadless land adjacent to Pecos Wilderness are in need of greater protection. In addition to working to have them designated as federal wilderness, we are trying to create special management areas that would allow traditional uses of the land by local communities to continue.

Special management areas

We propose the creation of three special management areas in the Pecos. These areas would allow current uses of the land to continue, including mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding and wildlife watching. Traditional activities include:

Hunting and fishing

Hunting and fishing in places like the Pecos are time-tested and important traditions in New Mexico. This would continue in the incorporated roadless areas surrounding the existing Pecos Wilderness.

Wildlife prospers in wilderness because these lands safeguard America’s cleanest water and wildest lands. Pecos Wilderness helps protect prime habitat for fish and wildlife, safeguarding cold-water fisheries and a fragile high-alpine ecosystem.

Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Credit: Chris Kitcheyan (USFWS), flickr.

According to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, New Mexico’s hunters and anglers spend more than $613 million in the state—supporting more than 7,900 jobs, $267 million in labor income, and another $51.4 million in state and local tax revenues.

Non-motorized recreation

In New Mexico, outdoor recreation generates $6.1 billion in consumer spending; 68,000 direct jobs; and $458 million in state and local tax revenue. Horseback riding, hiking, camping, canoeing and other non-mechanized outdoor recreation, which are permitted in wilderness areas, contribute to this.

According to a report by the New Mexico Tourism Department, over half of all overnight visitors to the state engage in outdoor recreation, and with tourism is New Mexico’s second-largest industry. Continuing to provide recreation and outdoor opportunities will be a key part of future management of the Pecos.

Protecting water quality

Acequias are irrigation systems that have been used in New Mexico for hundreds of years. Associations that manage these throughout Northern New Mexico rely on clean water from the rivers and streams that originate in the existing Pecos Wilderness and its adjacent roadless areas.  The areas that are proposed for wilderness and special management area designation would be protected from development while honoring the existing traditional uses. The special management area designations will not restrict access or limit maintenance or improvements to the irrigation infrastructure.

Our partners

The Wilderness Society works with a diverse coalition of people on the ground in New Mexico, including business leaders, Hispanic groups, local governments, sportsmen and conservationists to make sure that the Pecos Wilderness is protected for future generations: