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, “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.