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

Udall, Heinrich, Luján, Lujan Grisham Urge Zinke to Protect NM’s National Monuments

NEWS FROM U.S. SENATOR TOM UDALL
U.S. SENATOR MARTIN HEINRICH
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BEN RAY LUJÁN
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 20, 2017

Udall, Heinrich, Luján, Lujan Grisham Urge Zinke to Protect NM’s National Monuments

Rio Grande del Norte, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks protect precious resources, enjoy overwhelming public support, boost local economies

Udall, Heinrich, Luján, Lujan Grisham: administration review of monuments could cause ‘irrevocable harm to our treasured places’

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to protect New Mexico’s national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act. The New Mexico lawmakers wrote to Zinke to express their strong support for the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments, which the lawmakers said protect treasured resources and places, enjoy overwhelming public support, and drive local economies. In their letter, the lawmakers wrote that they “strongly disapprove” of the Trump administration’s monument review process. “Rescinding or shrinking to New Mexico’s national monuments will cause irrevocable harm to our treasured places, would jeopardize the objects and special values that are protected through the Antiquities Act, and impact positive economic growth in local communities.”

“The Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments, which were designated in 2013 and 2014 respectively, provide outstanding opportunities for recreation, hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and seeing centuries-old petroglyphs,” they wrote. “Each of these activities creates a deeper connection with our state’s rich cultural heritage. We urge you to heed the overwhelming support of New Mexicans to preserve their irreplaceable national monuments as designated under the Antiquities Act.”

New Mexico’s national monuments enjoy broad public support and were created after extensive consultation with and input from local communities, Udall, Heinrich, Luján and Lujan Grisham said. In addition, they wrote that New Mexico’s national monuments provide an essential boost to the state’s economy. “Protecting our national monuments has been an important economic driver for New Mexico’s regional and statewide economy,” the lawmakers said. “Outdoor recreation in New Mexico, as in most of the West, is a growing and sustainable industry that is revitalizing our local communities both around the monuments and statewide. Outdoor recreation generates $6.1 billion in consumer spending and provides the state of New Mexico with more than $450 million in state and local tax revenue and employs 68,000 people each year. Taos and Doña Ana Counties have benefitted from increasing numbers of visitors spending their hard earned dollars in our hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, retail stores, and other services.”

The lawmakers also expressed their disapproval of Zinke’s interim recommendation to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument. “We are disappointed with your handling of the review of Bears Ears National Monument and strongly disagree with your interim recommendation to reduce the size of the monument,” they wrote in the letter. “As you make your final recommendation, we hope you will consider the overwhelming support for national monuments, including that more than 90 percent of the public comments you received during the initial 15-day period favored maintaining Bears Ears’ designated boundaries. In your final report, you have an opportunity to change course and restore cooperation, respect, and trust with the sovereign tribes of the Bears Ears InterTribal Coalition and all of Indian Country by preserving the existing boundaries of all these important national monuments.”

Finally, they called on Zinke to extend the “arbitrary” and “grossly insufficient” 120-day review period for all national monuments. “The arbitrary 120-day review period for all national monuments, including the final review for Bears Ears, is grossly insufficient to collect the necessary information. The comment period, which relies heavily on internet access, puts Tribes and rural communities at a disadvantage because up to 80% of New Mexicans who live in Indian Country and rural areas do not have consistent access to broadband internet. Therefore, we request you extend the 120-day review period for all national monuments to accommodate the input from local communities and tribes in New Mexico who are concerned about the future of their beloved monuments that may be affected by this review.”

The full text of the letter can be found below and here:


Dear Secretary Zinke:

We write to you to express our support for New Mexico’s national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, and we encourage you to honor and preserve all of the national monuments you are charged with protecting. As Secretary of the Interior, you have a solemn responsibility to steward America’s public lands for the benefit of all Americans and to ensure these lands are maintained for our children and grandchildren. The lands protected as national monuments are irreplaceable and provide a place where all Americans can connect with their history, hunt, fish, hike, and camp, and experience solitude and unparalleled natural wonders.

The Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monuments, which were designated in 2013 and 2014 respectively, provide outstanding opportunities for recreation, hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and seeing centuries-old petroglyphs. Each of these activities creates a deeper connection with our state’s rich cultural heritage. We urge you to heed the overwhelming support of New Mexicans to preserve their irreplaceable national monuments as designated under the Antiquities Act.

The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is at the heart of one of the oldest continually inhabited landscapes in North America. For over 10,000 years this extraordinary landscape of deep gorges, wild rivers, hot springs, and volcanic cones shaped the diverse ecological systems and human cultures that remain present today. The Rio Grande del Norte is part of the Central Migratory Flyway, a vital migration corridor used by tens of millions of birds. It is also an important corridor for large elk and antelope herds and provides key wintering grounds. The Rio Grande and its tributaries support a world-class trout fishery by providing essential riparian habitat, which draws anglers from across the country.

The Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument is also archeologically rich, featuring thousands of artifacts from the Folsom and Clovis cultures, the first people who lived in New Mexico, as well as other cultures that inhabited the area. Some of the areas within the monument are considered sacred by local tribes. The monument protects historic places such as the Gadsden Purchase boundary, Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, old West ranch houses, Billy the Kid Rock, and World War II bombing targets. The congressionally-designated Prehistoric Trackways National Monument is adjacent to, and shares its paleontologically rich formations with Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, suggesting that this landscape could yield many more significant fossil discoveries. Fossil deposits in the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument have drawn the attention of the Smithsonian and other high-caliber scientific institutions. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks stretches from Chihuahuan grassland to high elevation stands of Ponderosa pine and include some of the last intact Chihuahuan desert grassland remaining in the U.S. Hunters played a key role in the creation of the monument due to the importance of the landscape to quail, deer, antelope, and other wildlife populations.

Above is just a small sampling of the resources the monuments in New Mexico were designated to protect. Our national monuments encompass the smallest area compatible to protect and manage the high diversity of nationally-significant historic and scientific objects found within them. In fact, a number of areas were excluded from protection that could easily have qualified. Any changes to the boundaries or designations of Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monuments threaten the lands, values, and objects thousands of New Mexicans fought to protect.

The Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monuments have decades-long histories of public support with numerous and diverse constituencies vocally advocating for their protection. The claim that the American people have not been heard on the designation of National Monuments does not accurately reflect the open and transparent process that established each monument. The foundation for legislation to protect the Rio Grande Del Norte began with public interest in the early 1990s and led to the introduction of the El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act in 2009. The legislation was reintroduced several times by the New Mexico delegation but languished in Congress. In 2012, Secretary Ken Salazar participated in a public meeting with local residents; the near unanimous approval for a national monument designation expressed by the citizens at that meeting initiated the designation process. Over 1,200 written comments were collected, in addition to the public meeting held in Taos, detailing how the monument should be managed.

Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks also originated as a legislative proposal to conserve this special place, stemming from over a decade of community support and hundreds of meetings with stakeholders. In 2009, business and community leaders organized a conference to discuss the economic benefits of public lands. Then in the spring of 2010, over 600 enthusiastic supporters attended a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee field hearing in Las Cruces on the legislation. Two panels of local residents were asked to testify, giving all parts of the community a voice. The Committee also accepted comments from the public for a period of time after the hearing. After 15 years of campaigning by local residents and stalled legislative efforts in Congress, the community turned to the Administration for help. In 2014, Secretary Sally Jewell came to tour the southern portion of the monument with U.S. Border Patrol and participate in a town hall in Las Cruces to hear public input. Over 750 people attended the town hall to provide their comments. The town hall confirmed the results of polling of Doña Ana County residents who overwhelmingly support the creation of the national monument. More than 15,000 petition signatures were collected in support of the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument in the lead up to the proclamation. Since the monument was established in 2014, its popularity and the support have only grown.

Protecting our national monuments has been an important economic driver for New Mexico’s regional and statewide economy. Outdoor recreation in New Mexico, as in most of the West, is a growing and sustainable industry that is revitalizing our local communities both around the monuments and statewide. Outdoor recreation generates $6.1 billion in consumer spending and provides the state of New Mexico with more than $450 million in state and local tax revenue and employs 68,000 people each year. Taos and Doña Ana Counties have benefitted from increasing numbers of visitors spending their hard earned dollars in our hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, retail stores, and other services.

In the first year after the Rio Grande del Norte Monument was established, the Bureau of Land Management reported a 40% increase in visitors to the area. The same year, the Town of Taos enjoyed a 21% boost in tax revenue from stays in hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts, and an 8.3% jump in gross receipts revenue in the accommodations and food service sector. In the three years since the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument was designated between $8 and $34 million in additional economic activity has been generated. There has been an estimated 152% increase in visitation to the monument over that same period. Lodging taxes for the City of Las Cruces have grown from $1.87 million in 2013 to $2.04 million in 2016. In January, Secretary Jewell attended a roundtable with local businesses to better understand the effects of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks on their bottom lines. She found increased sales, new products and services marketed around the monument, and, indeed, new businesses formed to take advantage of the monument’s attraction of tourists. We are deeply concerned that efforts to shrink, revoke, or alter the protections for national monuments threaten the positive economic growth our communities have experienced.

In addition, we strongly disapprove of the review process initiated by the President’s Executive Order and are gravely concerned that rescinding or shrinking New Mexico’s national monuments will cause irrevocable harm to our treasured places, would jeopardize the objects and special values that are protected through the Antiquities Act, and impact positive economic growth in local communities. A credible review of the national monuments should include conducting public meetings to collect information from all stakeholders. A formal review, as done under a standard APA process should be conducted. We also note that the local Resource Advisory Groups in New Mexico can provide another conduit for input on these decisions, and find it alarming that you’ve halted their convening at exactly the time you need their input the most.

We are disappointed with your handling of the review of Bears Ears National Monument and strongly disagree with your interim recommendation to reduce the size of the monument. We appreciate your extension of the public comment period for Bears Ears aligning it with the comment period for all monuments under review. As you make your final recommendation, we hope you will consider the overwhelming support for national monuments, including that more than 90% of the public comments you received during the initial 15-day period favored maintaining Bears Ears’ designated boundaries. In your final report, you have an opportunity to change course and restore cooperation, respect, and trust with the sovereign tribes of the Bears Ears InterTribal Coalition and all of Indian Country by preserving the existing boundaries of all these important national monuments.

We urge you to engage with our local communities, businesses, and their elected officials at all levels, and we urge you to fulfill your obligations to respectfully consult with Indian Tribes as you conduct your review. The arbitrary 120-day review period for all national monuments, including the final review for Bears Ears, is grossly insufficient to collect the necessary information. The comment period, which relies heavily on internet access, puts Tribes and rural communities at a disadvantage because up to 80% of New Mexicans who live in Indian Country and rural areas do not have consistent access to broadband internet. Therefore, we request you extend the 120-day review period for all national monuments to accommodate the input from local communities and tribes in New Mexico who are concerned about the future of their beloved monuments that may be affected by this review.

We encourage you to fulfill your promise to faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s vision that our treasured public lands should be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of all Americans now and for generations to come.

Sincerely,

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Contacts: Jennifer Talhelm (Udall) 202.228.6870 / Whitney Potter (Heinrich) 202.228.1578 / Joe Shoemaker (Luján) 202.225.6190 / Gilbert Gallegos (Lujan Grisham) 505.967-5612

Community Responds to President Trump’s Attack on Río Grande del Norte National Monument

Order could threaten national parks, monuments, and public lands, and oceans across the country

Taos, New Mexico (April 25, 2017) – President Donald J. Trump is expected to sign an Executive Order tomorrow that could threaten the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. The order “directs the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.”

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument was designated in 2013 in response to support from local business owners, local chambers of commerce, sportsmen and ranchers, local elected officials, Hispanic organizations, Native American tribes, and countless others.

The Executive Order threatens not only Río Grande del Norte and our native and cultural heritage, but it will also hurt surrounding communities and small businesses that have come to rely on access to this outdoor recreation haven. One year after President Obama designated the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, there was a 40 percent increase in visitors and a 21 percent increase in the Town of Taos Lodgers’ Tax Revenue. Additionally, a recent EcoNorthwest study found that “quiet recreation” on Bureau of Land Management lands generated $173 million dollars and supported 1,712 jobs across the state each year.

Mark Gallegos, Taos County Commissioner and Mayor of the Village of Questa said, “There was, and continues to be, strong support for our Río Grande del Norte National Monument. Our community depends on our national monument, and people choose to visit and live here because of it. I stand with the citizens of Taos in urging our elected and appointed officials to ensure that Río Grande del Norte remains as it is today.”

A recent study found that outdoor recreation alone drives a $887 billion economy and supports 7.6 million jobs. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that communities located near monuments and other protected public lands have stronger economies, and that the outdoor and recreational opportunities they provide increase residents’ quality of life, making areas near monuments more attractive to new residents, entrepreneurs and small businesses, and investment.

“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 truly unique to this area. Why would you want to destroy that? My business would not be where it is today without the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.”

Since it was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used on a bipartisan basis by the majority of U.S. presidents (16, 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats) to protect America’s most iconic natural, cultural, and historic places including: Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Bandelier, Aztec Ruins, and more.

Groups representing sportsmen, cultural heritage organizations, evangelicals, conservation, recreation businesses, historic preservation, and many others all oppose efforts to undermine the Antiquities Act because of the widespread historic, cultural, and natural treasures that have been protected through its use.

“As a sportsman, I value our protected public lands like the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. Without permanent protection, I know my dreams of taking my grandchildren fly-fishing on the Rio Grande are just a dream, and may never become a reality. I urge President Trump, Secretary Zinke, and members of Congress to keep the Río Grande del Norte National Monument the way it is,” said Mark Casias from Blue Creek Outfitters.

The public overwhelming supports national parks, monuments, and public lands and oceans. A 2014 Hart Research poll showed that 90% of voters supported Presidential proposals to protect some public lands and waters as parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness. In the 2017 Conservation in the West poll, only 13% of western voters supported removing protections for existing monuments while 80% supported keeping them in place.
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Community applauds protecting sensitive areas within Río Grande del Norte National Monument

Senators Heinrich and Udall reintroduce bill to protect wilderness within the national monument

Contact:
Susan Torres, storres@nmwildlife.org, 908-331-1472

TAOS, NM (Feburary 17, 2017) – A diverse coalition today applauded the reintroduction of the Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Act. This legislation would designate two new wilderness areas – Cerro del Yuta and Río San Antonio) – within the national monument and was introduced by Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall.

The Senators also reintroduced the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act today, which would preserve wilderness within the southern New Mexico national monument. The reintroductions come as communities across the country are seeing an aggressive assault on America’s public lands, including national monuments.

Designated in 2013, Río Grande del Norte National Monument was supported by business owners, sportsmen, tribal leaders, local and federal elected officials, and grazing permittees. The two proposed wilderness areas in the Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Act will comprise 21,420 acres of the 242,500-acre national monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.

Wilderness designation within the national monument will boost local businesses. One year after President Obama designated the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, there was a 40 percent increase in visitors and a 21 percent increase in the Town of Taos Lodgers’ Tax Revenue. Additionally, a recent EcoNorthwest study found that “quiet recreation” on Bureau of Land Management lands generated $173 million dollars and supported 1,712 jobs across the state.

“One of the main reasons people visit the Taos area is to venture into our magnificent wilderness areas and rushing waters,” said Francisco Guevara, Owner of Los Rios River Runners. “Protecting wilderness within the incredible Río Grande del Norte National Monument is necessary to continue to grow our tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. It will also safeguard our sources of clean water that sustains our communities.”

Grazing would continue in places where it already occurs, and water rights would not be impacted. Traditional activities like wood and piñon gathering would also continue.
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 foster world-class recreation opportunities already enjoyed within the national monument, such as hiking, hunting, and fishing for future.

“Wildlife is only as healthy as the lands and waters that it depends on,” said Ivan Valdez, co-owner of The Reel Life fly shop in Santa Fe. “These two wilderness designations will ensure that our children and grandchildren of hunters and anglers will always have access to their birthright just as we do today. I want to thank Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their steadfast leadership in safeguarding our natural heritage that belongs to all of us.”

 

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Opinion: President Obama should seek conservation legacy in New Mexico

Credit: Conservation Lands Foundation

In an op-ed printed in the High Country News, Ben Long of Resource Media argues the importance of balancing leasing with protection of our public lands, pointing out that while oil and gas production has soared under President Obama, public land conservation has lagged far behind.

Although President Obama currently sits behind President Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush when it comes to protecting public lands – not exactly something to be proud of – Mr. Long points out that New Mexico presents the perfect opportunity to begin balancing the equation.

From the High Country News:

A great place for Obama to begin correcting this imbalance is in New Mexico, with the Rio Grande del Norte.  I was in New Mexico in the fall, working with some folks who love to hunt elk and mule deer and fish for trout in this region.

The land is impressive on its own – vast sagebrush plateaus, framed by ancient volcanic cinder cones and cleft by the narrow whitewater canyon of the Rio Grande. I was equally impressed by the broad swath of support from New Mexicans coming together to conserve this special place – not lock it up under glass, but to make sure it remains special and available for people to use and enjoy long into the future.

New Mexicans have drawn up a balanced, visionary proposal that would conserve about 250,000 acres of the Rio Grande del Norte. If Congress is too lost in Beltway politics to listen to the people, Obama should perk up his famous ears and act toward the future.

Check out the Center for American Progress for more on the need to balance leasing with conservation.

Taos Pueblo passes resolution supporting Rio Grande del Norte proposals

The Taos Pueblo Government Office has passed a resolution supporting the protection of Rio Grande del Norte either by designation as a National Conservation Area or by presidential proclamation as a National Monument.

The Taos Pueblo is located on 99,000 acres of land just north of the city of Taos, and is governed by a tribal governor and war chief appointed yearly by the Pueblo’s Tribal Council, a group of some 50 male tribal elders.

The Taos Pueblo resolution includes the following statements:

Whereas, the proposed Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area/National Monument in Taos and Rio Arriba Counties is an area of extraordinary environmental, economic, cultural and recreational value;

Whereas, the people of Taos Pueblo have for centuries been important Earth stewards honoring the interconnection of all life in the Rio Gorge and surrounding plateau and mesas;

Whereas, the Conservation Area or National Monument will ensure that these public lands will be conserved and enhanced for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations of all species;

THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED Taos Pueblo in the strongest terms supports federal protection of the lands contained within Rio Grande del Norte Proposal through a legislated National Conservation Area or a presidentially proclaimed National Monument in order to protect its scenic, cultural, environmental, economic, and recreational values.

Read the entire Taos Pueblo resolution here.

Sportsmen show support for monument proposal

With Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s trip to Taos County complete and discussions about a Rio Grande del Norte national monument ongoing, Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued a statement opposing the monument designation, citing a lack of public input and referring to the Antiquities Act as “controversial” and a way to “lock up federal land and resources behind Congress’ back.”

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation has responded to Bishop’s concerns regarding a lack of public input, pointing out that permanent protection of Rio Grande del Norte “has been the subject of widespread public discussion and media coverage for years.”

From the New Mexico Wildlife Federation’s press release:

“Contrary to Rep. Bishop’s statements, well-publicized legislation and proposals regarding Rio Grande del Norte have been discussed for several years, with the overwhelming amount of it favoring permanent protection of these vital public lands,” said Max Trujillo of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “The representative’s assertion that designating this area as a national monument without sufficient public input reeks of a desperate 11th-hour attempt to stop presidential action that would help the local economy and be highly popular in New Mexico.”

In fact, permanent protection of Rio Grande del Norte has been the subject of widespread public discussion and media coverage for years. It has been supported by numerous entities including the Taos County Commission, Taos Town Council, Taos Pueblo, local businesses and chambers of commerce, as well as individual ranchers, sportsmen and veterans. A recent book highlights the support voiced by 100 northern New Mexicans from all walks of life.

“Contrary to Rep. Bishop’s recent comments, a tremendous amount of public input has gone into the development of the proposal to protect Rio Grande del Norte,” said Taos County Commissioner Larry Sanchez. “That is why there is no local opposition to designating a national monument. That is why the many traditional uses of these public lands are being recognized. Grazing, hunting, fishing, gathering of firewood and piñon and herbs, religious and cultural sites—it would all be protected. Designating Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument would also provide badly needed economic growth for this area,” he continued. “I would be happy to give Rep. Bishop a personal tour of the area to show him directly how much local support there is.”

You can find additional coverage in the Taos News here.

Audubon New Mexico’s Executive Director discusses protecting Rio Grande Gorge region

In her op-ed in the Santa Fe New Mexican, Aububon New Mexico’s Executive Director Karyn Stockdale lays out her reasons for extending permanent protection to the Rio Grande Gorge region by designating the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Though she touches on the economic and tourism boosts the area will receive, her primary argument focuses on the region’s critical wildlife habitat, especially for birds – from larger species such as eagles, hawks and falcons that nest in the Rio Grande Gorge, to smaller songbird species which depend on the riparian margins along the river’s banks.

Stockdale writes:

During the spring and fall, the Rio Grande becomes a critical pathway for dozens of migrant species making their long journeys between their summer breeding grounds in the northern U.S. and Canada and their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central and South America. While everyone notices the larger migrants, like the trumpeting Sandhill Cranes, they are just a visible symbol of dozens of smaller species that cannot complete their migratory journeys without the habitats fed by the waters of the Rio Grande.

And it’s not just an amazing assembly of birds that can be found in the Rio Grande Gorge region. Animals big and small live in the habitats of the high mesas of the Taos Plateau and Ute Mountain.

The annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count is currently taking place across New Mexico, providing not only a great opportunity to learn which birds are in our area but also to contribute to our understanding of them. Over time, these bird counts give us a picture of the health of bird populations and the environment, and the latest data beg us to pay attention. Last week, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported about the decline in the number of birds wintering in Northern New Mexico and across the United States. These long-term changes in bird numbers bring to light the need for us to make sure we are protecting important habitat for our resident and migrating birds.

Read the full article in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

More support for Rio Grande del Norte monument

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.”

You can find more from the Taos News here.