The Wilderness Society celebrates Earth Day wilderness bill introduction

Apr 23, 2013

Gold Hill in Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area.

Jim O'Donnell


New Mexico Senators and Congressman re-introduce bill to protect Columbine Hondo

The Wilderness Society today applauded the reintroduction of the Columbine- Hondo Wilderness Act. The legislation would designate the 45,000-acre Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area as permanently protected wilderness. The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tom Udall and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich, and in the House by Rep. Ben Ray Luján.

Columbine Hondo is nestled deep in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico.  Located outside the towns of Taos, Questa and Red River, it is a recreation haven, attracting hikers, hunters, anglers, horseback riders and wildlife lovers. The area serves as home for elk, deer, mountain lion, black bear, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and is critical habitat for the endangered Rio Grande cutthroat trout. In addition to the exceptional wildlife, the 12,700-foot “Gold Hill” is one of Columbine Hondo’s main attractions.

Columbine Hondo contains important headwaters of the Red River and Rio Hondo, major tributaries of the Rio Grande, which provide water for local acequias and downstream communities.

 “We all have a shared responsibility to protect our precious water sources and protecting the Columbine Hondo does just that,” said Michael Casaus, the New Mexico State Director of The Wilderness Society. “A truly diverse coalition of local ranchers, small business owners, Hispanic and Pueblo leaders, sportsmen and conservationists have come together to preserve what makes New Mexico special – our culture, our clean water and our ties to the land. There is overwhelming local support and we urge Congress to permanently protect this special place for future generations.”

Congress formally recognized the natural value of the Columbine Hondo area in 1980 and gave it interim protection as a wilderness study area. Legislation to protect Columbine Hondo was introduced last Congress, but failed to pass, along with dozens of other conservation measures in the “Worst Congress Ever for Wilderness.” The Wilderness Society is hopeful that the 113th Congress will turn a new page and protect America’s wilderness. 

Michael Casaus
(505) 247-0834