New Mexicans Urge Interior Secretary to maintain protections for Río Grande del Norte National Monument

Local communities join over 2.5 Million Americans in voicing their support for national monuments across the country


On April 26th, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order that directed “the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.” The comment period for this review officially closed today and more than 2.5 million Americans across the country have spoken out in support of maintaining current protections for our national monuments. Roughly 97,000 comments were submitted for New Mexico’s national monuments, including Río Grande del Norte.

Twenty-seven national monuments across the country, including Río Grande del Norte, are subject to this review which could result in losing its current protections or having its boundaries drastically reduced. For years, a broad coalition of local business owners, local chambers of commerce, sportsmen and ranchers, veterans, local elected officials, Hispanic organizations, Native American tribes, and countless others worked to preserve the Río Grande del Norte area for future generations to enjoy.

Now, these supporters are rallying behind their national monument and urging Secretary Ryan Zinke to keep the Río Grande del Norte National Monument as it is today.

Village of Questa Mayor and Taos County Commissioner Mark Gallegos said, “New Mexicans have spoken – we love our national monuments. Our communities depend on Río Grande del Norte for their livelihoods, and people choose to visit and live here because of it. I stand with my neighbors in urging Secretary Zinke to preserve Río Grande del Norte as it is today.”
“I represent the people of Taos, and they want Secretary Zinke to ensure no changes are made to the Río Grande del Norte National Monument,” added Taos Commissioner Tom Blankenhorn. “The real-life economic benefits of the national monument cannot be overstated.”

Since designation, surrounding communities have seen an increase in visitors, and local businesses have benefited from the increase in tourism dollars flowing into Taos. Specifically, one year after President Obama designated the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, there was a 40 percent rise in visitors and a 21 percent increase in the Town of Taos Lodgers’ Tax Revenue.

Additionally, studies have shown that people want to live and work near protected public lands like Río Grande del Norte. A recent Headwaters Economics study found that the local economies of communities surrounding the national monument had grown, with per capita income increasing as much as 27 percent from 2001 to 2015.

“One of the main reasons people visit the Taos area is to explore our Río Grande del Norte National Monument,” said Nick Streit, Taos Fly Shop. “Thanks to the national monument, we have seen our tourism and outdoor recreation sectors flourish. Fly-fishing and sportsmen opportunities in the monument are world-class and my business would not be where it is today without the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.”

Mark Casias from Blue Creek Outfitters added, “As a sportsman, the Río Grande del Norte National Monument is a sacred place for me. If the national monument is rescinded or the boundaries adjusted, I know future generations will not have the same experiences I have today. I stand with other sportsmen in urging Secretary Zinke to keep the Río Grande del Norte National Monument the way it is.”

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is home to elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, birds of prey, and otters. Its rivers provide cool waters for trout, pike and smallmouth bass. This abundance of wildlife draws hunters and anglers from near and far to visit and enjoy. Additionally, grazing, ranching, and traditional uses of the lands have continued and will continue in the national monument.

“The Río Grande del Norte National Monument safeguards our 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 national monument. I urge Secretary Zinke to preserve our water – the lifeblood of our community—and preserve Río Grande del Norte as it is today.”

“My family has been grazing in northern New Mexico for hundreds of years, and we depend on the Río Grande del Norte National Monu¬ment for our livelihoods. I ask Secretary Zinke to ensure that my children and grandchildren are able to continue the traditions passed on to me by my father and grandfather,” added Erminio Martinez, a grazing permittee.

At the time of press, regulations.gov posted 1.3 million individual comments. However, a survey of dozens of concerned organizations gathering public comments to submit to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Trump as part of the monuments review reveals more than 2.5 million public comments have already been gathered on the final day of the comment period. When uploaded to regulations.gov, however, each bundle will display as a single comment understating the number of comments that been submitted.

With the public comment period closing on July 10, Secretary Zinke has until August 24th to deliver his recommendations to President Trump.

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument coalition submitted past and present support for the national monument. The broad support can be found here: http://www.riograndedelnorte.org/monument-review/.

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LULAC urges Secretary Zinke to leave Rio Grande del Norte intact

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s oldest and largest Latino civic membership organization, took an official position of support for designation the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in 2012 through both its New Mexico chapter followed by our national organization in 2013.  The Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, a coalition of local, state and national Hispanic organizations with a representation of over 50 Hispanic organizations and over 50,000 members, took the same official position in 2013.  This letter serves to convey our continued support as well as that of the other leading New Mexico organizations signed on to this letter.

LULAC et al letter to Secretary Ryan Zinke July 2017 – RGDN – FINAL

Rio Grande with Ute Mountain © Adriel Heisey