Udall, Heinrich, Luján, Lujan Grisham Urge Interior Secretary to Honor New Mexicans’ Views and Leave NM’s Monuments Alone

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: August 21, 2017

Udall, Heinrich, Luján, Lujan Grisham Urge Interior Secretary to Honor New Mexicans’ Views and Leave NM’s Monuments Alone

Write to Interior Secretary: Don’t make make changes that would damage and degrade monuments’ unique values

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – As the deadline nears for U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to complete his review of national monuments created under the Antiquities Act, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham urged him one more time to respect the wishes of thousands of New Mexicans who cherish Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments, and leave them intact.

“The voices of New Mexicans could not be clearer – our national monuments are vitally important to our history and are part of the living culture of local tribes and pueblos. Our local communities worked for decades to ensure that permanent protections for our national monuments would be in place for the use and enjoyment of future generations,” the lawmakers wrote. “We strongly urge you to honor the views from New Mexicans who love the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments.”

The lawmakers have made the case to Zinke numerous times in person, during congressional hearings and in writing that the monuments – in their current form – are significant drivers of New Mexico’s economy, attracting visitors from around the world who visit, shop, and stay in local communities while they enjoy exceptional hiking, hunting and fishing, and learn about the cultural and historical sites preserved in the monuments.

Communities, including Taos, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces, have held rallies and special events to raise awareness about the review and demonstrate to Zinke the strong widespread support the monuments enjoy. For example, more than 600 local residents, sportsmen, veterans, Hispanic leaders, members of tribes and faith groups, and business and community leaders packed a town hall meeting in Las Cruces to express how much they cherish Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

“You invited the American people to participate in two public comment periods and over 90 percent of the more than 2.7 million responses supported keeping or expanding our existing national monuments. The public has spoken loudly and clearly to protect — and not alter or eliminate — national monuments,” the lawmakers wrote. “We encourage you to end your review with a recognition and renewed commitment to properly care for and manage all of our national monuments as designated under the Antiquities Act, and not to make changes that would damage and degrade their unique values.”

Full text of the letter is here and below:

 August 21, 2017

 Dear Secretary Zinke:

We write to you today on behalf of our constituents, who are committed to keeping the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments intact as established under the Antiquities Act. These national monuments showcase the abundance of natural beauty and archeological wonders of New Mexico — that bring locals and visitors from across America together.

As you saw firsthand during your visit to New Mexico, these two national monuments enjoy broad public support and are important engines for our local jobs and economies. In Las Cruces, more than 600 local residents, sportsmen, veterans, Hispanic leaders, members of tribes and faith groups, and business and community leaders packed a town hall meeting to share their stories and express how much they cherish these special places. The voices of New Mexicans could not be clearer – our national monuments are vitally important to our history and are part of the living culture of local tribes and pueblos. Our local communities worked for decades to ensure that permanent protections for our national monuments would be in place for the use and enjoyment of future generations.

We have shared our support for these national monuments in their current form with you through letters, Congressional hearings, phone calls, staff-to-staff communication, and meeting you personally in New Mexico. You invited the American people to participate in two public comment periods and over 90 percent of the more than 2.7 million responses supported keeping or expanding our existing national monuments. The public has spoken loudly and clearly to protect — and not alter or eliminate –national monuments.

The American people have a strong sense of pride and deep connection to our public lands. Our national monuments have been thoughtfully conserved by presidents of both parties for more than 100 years. The vision of the leaders who protected our most wild lands, darkest skies, rare ecosystems, scenic landscapes, historical sites, and culturally significant tribal resources was for all Americans to enjoy and learn from these amazing places.

We encourage you to end your review with a recognition and renewed commitment to properly care for and manage all of our national monuments as designated under the Antiquities Act, and not to make changes that would damage and degrade their unique values. And we strongly urge you to honor the views from New Mexicans who love the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments.

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

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

Bill would protect special areas valued by ranchers and sportsmen within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

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

TAOS, NM (March 30, 2017) – A diverse coalition today applauded the mark-up of the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act (S. 432) 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 family has been grazing in northern New Mexico for hundreds of years, and we depend on places like the wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monu¬ment for our livelihoods,” said Erminio Martinez, a grazing permittee. “By passing this bill, my children and grandchildren will be able to carry on our rich family traditions passed on to me by my father and grandfather.”

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.

Marty Torres of Laguna Elk Ranch said about the mark-up, “The elk on our ranch depend on the water that is safeguarded by the wildest places in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. In addition to sustaining our family, we see hunters, fisherman, and other folks come to experience all that the national monument has to offer – including the proposed wilderness areas.”

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.

“For over 200 years, my family has been ranching and farming in Northern New Mexico. Our cattle and crops depend need clean water, and wilderness designation will help preserve that precious, diminishing resource.” Added Floyd Archuleta, a rancher from El Prado.

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.

“Wildlife is only as healthy as the lands and waters that it depends on,” said Ivan Valdez, co-owner of The Reel Life in Santa Fe. “These two wilderness designations will ensure that future generations 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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Cerros del Norte Conservation Act achieves major milestone in U.S. Senate

Senate passes measure to protect special areas as wilderness within Río Grande del Norte National Monument

TAOS, NM (April 20, 2016) – A diverse coalition applauded the U.S. Senate passage of the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act (S. 1240) today. The measure passed as part of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012).

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

“My livelihood depends on the wild places within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument,” said Nick Streit, owner of Taos Fly Shop. “Wilderness areas provide the best wildlife habitat for the numerous species that call this area home. I want to thank 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.

“Wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument would 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.”

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.

“People come near and far for the natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities”, said Dan Irion, co-founder of Taos Mesa Brewing. “Local businesses depend on these visitors that support our economy. Safeguarding wilderness within the national monument will protect businesses like mine throughout the region.”

The two proposed wilderness areas in the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act will comprise 21,540 acres of the 242,500-acre national monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.

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.

Ah, Wilderness for Río Grande del Norte National Monument

Senators Udall and Heinrich introduce bill to protect special areas as wilderness within the northern New Mexico national monument

TAOS, NM (May 7, 2015) – A diverse coalition today applauded the reintroduction of the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act. The legislation would provide extra protection for special areas contained within the Río Grande del Norte National Monu¬ment. It would designate two new wilderness areas – Ute Mountain (Cerro del Yuta) and San Antonio Mountain (Rio San Antonio) – within the national monument and was introduced by Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall.

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.

“One of the main reasons people visit the Taos area is to marvel at and venture into our magnificent wilderness areas and public wild lands,” said Stuart Wilde, a local wilderness guide and Llama Trekking outfitter. “Protecting wilderness within the incredible Río Grande del Norte National Monu-ment will only enhance our tourism and outdoor recreation.”

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 additional wilderness protections contained in the legislation will permanently safeguard special areas as wilderness within Rio Grande del Norte,” said Max Trujillo, a sportsman with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “These two wilderness designations will ensure that future generations of hunters and anglers will always have truly wild places to visit in northern New Mexico. I want to thank Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their steadfast leadership in safeguarding our natural heritage.”

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.

“My family has been grazing in northern New Mexico for hundreds of years, and we depend on places like the wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument for our livelihoods,” said Erminio Martinez, a grazing permittee. “I hope that my children and grandchildren will be able to continue the traditions passed on to me by my father and grandfather.”

In March, 2013, President Obama designated Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument. The two proposed willderness 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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Conquering a Cliff by Protecting a Gorge

The Sierra Club's Eliza Kretzmann

On the Sierra Club’s “Lay of the Land” blog, Eliza Kretzmann of the Club’s Resilient Habitats program writes that with the nation teetering at the edge of a fiscal cliff, protecting the Rio Grande del Norte and reaping the economic benefits that a national monument designation would bring is a win-win proposition.

From Lay of the Land:

In addition to protecting one of the state’s most treasured landscapes, the prospect of a national monument designation also provides other opportunities during what have been tough times for this region. As the ‘fiscal cliff’ approaches, a Rio Grande del Norte National Monument represents a ray of economic hope in an otherwise bleak storyline; a recent study by the Denver-based BBC Research and Consulting found that national monument designation of this special place would bring in an estimated $15.7 million annually, and provide over 270 jobs. For a county with a 28% poverty rate, this is big economic news.

Read the full post from Eliza Kretzmann here.

If you’re interested in supporting the Sierra Club’s petition to designate the Rio Grande del Norte, you can sign up here.

An economic engine to help drive Northern New Mexico’s economy

In an op-ed published in the Taos News, Erin Sanborn – Director of the Taos Green Chamber of Commerce and Collaborative Green and a local business owner – explains why protecting the Rio Grande del Norte is an investment in northern New Mexico’s economy.

The Río Grande del Norte  — and the opportunities it provides for hunting, fishing, rafting, ballooning, climbing, hiking, camping, and other forms of recreation — is already a major economic engine for the Taos region. This area is important to local businesses and our personal economies in other ways, such as by providing clean drinking and irrigation water, farm land, fish and game to feed our families, and a place to graze livestock, gather firewood and piñon pine nuts.

Once this beloved landscape has a permanent protection, the Río Grande del Norte will be available as a resource in perpetuity to assist us all to create new jobs and contribute to the long-term sustainability of our community, economy, and way of life.

Read the full article.

Public Lands Day a chance to reflect

In an Albuquerque Journal op-ed inspired by National Public Lands Day, retired professor Anthony Hunt writes on why this is the perfect time to honor our public lands.

Amid the partisan posturing of the election season, National Public Lands Day is an opportunity for us to remember what pulls us together. Surely we all agree that past measures to set aside outstanding public lands in New Mexico for present and future generations have been worthwhile…

Take, for instance, efforts to protect the Rio Grande del Norte region. Located in northern New Mexico west of Taos, this rugged region has long been a source of joy not only for the tourists who are charmed by it (and who spend money in the local economy), but also for the countless generations of New Mexicans who have hunted, fished, gathered wood and grazed livestock there.

Read the full article.

Agua es vida…Water is life

Francisco Guevara, a native New Mexican and owner of Los Rios River Runners, explains in the Los Alamos Monitor why the Rio Grande del Norte is so much more than just a river.

There is a well-known saying in the southwest: “Agua es vida,” or “water is life.” This isn’t just a reference to our limited supplies, but also to the cultural, spiritual and economic significance of water to our way of life.

As the owner of a rafting company in Northern New Mexico, water is indeed my life. I take tourists and residents whitewater rafting, camping and fishing while exposing them to the culture, natural beauty and majesty that makes Northern Mexico so special. That’s why I support efforts underway to protect the Rio Grande Gorge as part of a potential Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area. But it is also why I was pleased to hear President Obama had designated a new national monument in Colorado recently.

Chimney Rock west of Pagosa Springs isn’t a vital water resource. Instead, its ancient pueblos are held sacred by Native Americans. I’m hoping that if the President is willing to act to recognize and protect the important cultural significance of Chimney Rock, he’ll also act to protect the Rio Grande del Norte, which is sacred to us.

Here in Northern New Mexico, families have irrigated from acequias for hundreds of years. We grow chiles, corn and apples.
We rely on water from the Rio Grande to feed our families, but also to feed our souls.
Ask any local potter, silversmith, writer or painter.
Ask a clergy or tribal member.
Ask any rafter, hunter or angler.
The answer is the same: “Agua es vida.”

In addition to supporting our cultural heritage, the Rio Grande is also the lifeline for many small businesses like mine in rural communities throughout New Mexico. Recreation-based businesses rely on the Rio Grande to support rafting, fishing and hunting trips. Indirectly these activities also support restaurants, lodging, outfitters and guides in addition to contributing to the local tax base. According to the data from the Outdoor Industry Association, more than 100,000 New Mexicans participate in hunting every year, nearly 200,000 in fishing, more than 66,000 in rafting and a whooping 469,000 in wildlife viewing.

That is why there is such a diversity of support for permanent protection of the Rio Grande del Norte. Supporters include business owners, ranchers, sportsmen, veterans, recreationists, elected officials, Native Americans, land grant leaders, and other conservationists.

Ask anyone that had ever been to the Rio Grande gorge, young or old, and they can tell you that this stretch of river and the surrounding area is some of the wildest and most spectacular in the whole state.

It is vital that we work together to preserve it, and we need President Obama’s help.
Legislation to protect the area has been stalled in the U.S. Congress. While our congressional delegation is valiantly working hard to overcome gridlock in Washington, I worry that this opportunity to protect the Rio Grande del Norte, and benefit our state and nation is so many ways, will be lost.

Protecting our water supplies and way of life cannot be put on hold while the U.S. House of Representatives takes yet another run at dismantling our health care or attacking clean energy.

Instead, it is the Rio Grande del Norte that needs our attention, and President Obama’s leadership; nothing less than our culture, economy, and way of life depend on it.

Francisco Guevara is a multigenerational, native northern New Mexican. He has run his rafting business, Los Rios River Runners for more than 40 years.

Protect our land, protect our character

Joseph M. Maestas, former Mayor of Espanola, discusses in the Santa Fe New Mexican why declaring Chimney Rock a national monument was the right thing to do, and why extending the same protection to Rio Grande del Norte should be next on President Obama’s agenda.

From the Santa Fe New Mexican:

In fact, in the words of Lilia Diaz of Santa Fe, who was featured in a recently published book about New Mexicans speaking out for protection of the Rio Grande del Norte (see www.RioGrandedelNorte.org/book), “this ancient area has enriched the minds, bodies, hearts and souls of New Mexicans for generations. Protecting this land will mean the enhancement of many more lives to come.”

The Rio Grande del Norte proves that our heritage need not be an artifact in a museum or a footnote in a history book to be worthy of our admiration and protection. Our community — like my family — values this place as our legacy to the next generation. These lands have been here for thousands of years. We call on President Obama to help ensure they remain protected for a thousand more for our spiritual, cultural, economic and community well-being.

Read the full article here.