Big Step forward as Cerros del Norte Conservation Act clears Senate committee

Bill to protect special areas as wilderness within Río Grande del Norte National Monument now ready for full senate vote

Contact:
John Olivas, (575) 387-2665, avidelksman@yahoo.com

TAOS, NM (July 30, 2015) – A diverse coalition today applauded the mark-up of the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act (S. 1240) in the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The legislation can now move to a vote on the Senate floor.

The Act would provide extra protection for special areas contained within Río Grande del Norte National Monu¬ment by designating two new wilderness areas – Ute Mountain (Cerro del Yuta) and San Antonio Mountain (Rio San Antonio). Designated in 2013, Río Grande del Norte National Monu-ment was supported by business owners, sportsmen, tribal leaders, local and federal elected officials, and grazing permittees. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act following the national monument designation to protect these special areas.

“My livelihood depends on the wild places within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument,” said Nick Streit, owner of Taos Fly Shop. “People come near and far for the natural beauty, outdoor recreation opportunities, and of course the fishing. Safeguarding wilderness within the national monument will protect businesses like mine throughout the region. Thank you Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for protecting our economy, traditions, and way of life.”

The proposed wilderness areas within the national monument serve as one of the world’s great avian migratory routes. It is also home to important game species like pronghorn and elk. The legislation would also safeguard world-class recreation opportunities already enjoyed within the national monument, such as hiking, hunting, and fishing. Grazing would continue in already-existing areas, and water rights would not be impacted.

“The proposed wilderness areas within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument safeguard precious water that is vital to our wellbeing,” said Ester Garcia, President of the San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant in Questa. “Waters that flow to our acequias are protected by the wildest lands within the national monument. I want to thank Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for protecting our lifeblood-our water.”

In March, 2013, President Obama designated Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument. The two proposed wil¬derness areas in the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act will comprise 21,420 acres of the 242,500-acre national monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.

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