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.