Those choosing to speak at Saturday’s public meeting hosted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar consistently delivered the same message – overwhelming support for a Rio Grande del Norte national monument.
Around 50 or so people spoke at the two-hour meeting, which was also attended by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Jesse Juen, state director for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The meeting was meant to gather public comment on plans to designate 236,000 acres in and around Taos County as a conservation area or national monument.
Commenters included river guide Cisco Guevara:
“I was probably only about 3 years old and I was looking into the kitchen sink,” Guevara told Salazar. “My dad had gone fishing and he was going to feed the whole clan — there were more than 10 of us — with two fish. They were huge. They were going over the edges of the sink. And I said, ‘Dad, where did these fish come from?’ ‘El Río Grande del Norte.’ And from then on, I always wanted to visit that magic place.”
Taos Pueblo Lt. Gov. Gilbert Suazo mentioned the cultural significance of the Rio Grande region:
“We have Indian names for all these places here,” said Suazo, pointing to landmarks on a giant map and reciting the Tiwa name for each. “All of those places are a part of a history, a part of our culture, a part of our tradition. So we are interested in having that area protected.”
And Questa Mayor Esther García stressed safeguarding the land and respecting the historic activities of longtime Hispano residents:
“For me, protecting El Río Grande del Norte is very important, but I also want to protect the traditional uses of land,” García said. “We are land grant heirs in New Mexico. Grazing is important. The fishing, the hunting, the herb gathering. Everything that has been traditional for my culture is very important to me.”
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