Celebrating the conservation legacy of Senator Jeff Bingaman

A new video released by the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited examines the enduring conservation legacy of retiring U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman. The Senator is getting set to retire after three decades serving in the United States Senate. New Mexico Representative Martin Heinrich, himself a staunch supporter of public lands, will fill Bingaman’s seat beginning in January.

From the video’s press release:

“New Mexico is a better place thanks to Senator Bingaman’s tireless and thoughtful efforts to protect public lands,” said Kent Salazar, a lifelong Albuquerque hunter and angler and former president of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “His hard work in Congress has improved and protected outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and hiking for sportsmen like me. Thanks to his efforts, Senator Bingaman has helped ensure that all New Mexicans have the opportunity to enjoy our state’s natural gifts.”

Read the entire press release.

The Albuquerque Journal and Public News Service have more.


Protecting Rio Grande del Norte makes economic sense

The Rio Grande del Norte offers exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, and designating it as a national monument would be an economic boon to Northern New Mexicans - this according to Adriana Blake in her recent Op-Ed published in the Taos News. Blake is the administrative manager at Taos Ski Valley, and treasurer of the Taos County Chamber of Commerce.

From the Taos News:

Northern New Mexicans are asking for a Río Grande del Norte National Monument because it makes economic sense. According to a recent study by an economic research firm, a national monument could add $15 million annually to our local economy and create 279 jobs. This growth is on top of the $3.8 billion that outdoor recreation already contributes to New Mexico’s economy annually and the 47,000 New Mexico jobs it supports.

Senators. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich have been working on legislation to protect Río Grande del Norte. However, the bills are stalled in Congress, so our elected officials have asked President Obama to protect the area by using the Antiquities Act.

Read the full article.

Local mayors call on President Obama to protect “el norte”

Esther Garcia and Darren Cordova, the mayors of Questa and Taos respectively, have called on President Obama to exercise his authority under the Antiquities Act and designate the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. In an Op-Ed published Saturday in the Santa Fe New Mexican, the mayors Garcia and Cordova touted the preservation of traditional land uses and the economic boost the region would receive as reasons to support the creation of a national monument.

From the Santa Fe New Mexican:

A Rio Grande del Norte National Monument would safeguard existing user rights on the lands, protecting people’s rights to graze livestock, continue hunting and fishing traditions, and enjoy the mountains with their families. It is equally important to protect religious and cultural sites and protect the traditions of Pueblo members. A Rio Grande del Norte National Monument would spur economic growth in Northern New Mexico. According to a recent study, a national monument would fuel an estimated $15 million in new economic benefits for Northern New Mexico by boosting tourism and supporting ongoing grazing. This growth is on top of the $3.8 billion that outdoor recreation already brings into New Mexico’s economy annually that supports 47,000 jobs across the state.

Garcia and Cordova acknowledged that while legislation has been introduced to protect the Rio Grande del Norte - by Sens. Bingaman and Udall in the Senate, and Reps. Lujan and Heinrich in the House - those efforts are currently stalled in a Congress plagued by gridlock.

Read the full article.

Taos County Chamber of Commerce says National Monument will boost local economy

According to a new study cited by the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, designating the Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument would have a “significant” impact on the local economy, resulting in an annual economic impact of approximately $15 million, and creating nearly 300 new jobs.

Those figures come from a new independent study by BBC Research and Consulting. By estimating current and future spending by national monument visitors, the study concluded that, “a public land designation, such as a national monument, may signal enhanced quality of a potential visitor experience, substantially increasing visitation.”

The Taos Chamber of Commerce also noted the recent letter sent to President Obama by U.S. Sens. Udall and Bingaman, requesting national monument status for Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains.

“Protecting Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument clearly makes good business sense,” said Brad Malone, Chairman of the Taos County Chamber of Commerce. “This study suggests that recognizing the area as a national monument should bring more folks from across the country and around the world here to visit. We know how spectacular this place is, but having such recognition will raise awareness of its value enormously. In addition, the national monument designation would protect wildlife habitat prized by hunters and anglers and a broad variety of archeological and historic resources for future generations.”

Read the entire Taos County Chamber Press Release here.

Taos County Commissioners come out in support of Sens. Udall and Bingaman

Taos County Commissioners Larry Sanchez and Nicklos Jaramillo announced their support today for U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman. Earlier this week, Udall and Bingaman submitted a letter to President Obama requesting National Monument status for two areas in New Mexico - the Rio Grande del Norte, and the Organ Mountains in Dona Ana County.

“Senator Bingaman and Senator Udall continue to champion the protection of the Rio Grande del Norte,” Taos County Commissioner Nicklos Jaramillo said. “Even the political stalemate in Congress can’t dissuade them from fighting for our economy and our cultural heritage, and all of Taos County joins me in appreciation.”

Both Sanchez and Jaramillo stressed the broad local support for designating Rio Grande del Norte, and the many benefits such a designation would bring.

“I support the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument as a county commissioner, and as a veteran,” said Taos County Commissioner Larry Sanchez. “These lands matter for our water supplies, our livestock, our tourism economy, and our outdoor way of life. But the Rio Grande del Norte also offers healing to veterans returning from war, and a respite for all of us. I commend our senators for urging the president to act where Congress has not, and protect a place integral to our community.”

Read the full release from the Taos County Commissioners here.

New Mexico sportsmen applaud call for Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

New Mexico hunters and anglers have voiced their support of U.S. Senators Bingaman and Udall, who on Thursday submitted a letter to President Obama requesting the designation of National Monuments at Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains. In their letter, Sens. Udall and Bingaman cited the broad local support for protecting the two locations, as well as the inability of Congress to act before the year is up.

“For anglers, permanent protection of this stretch of the Rio Grande is the key to long-term health of our local fishing opportunity and the economic contribution that fishing brings to this area,” said Nick Streit, owner of the Taos Fly Shop and a lifelong Taos hunter and angler.
Hunting guide Mark Casias of Taos also applauded the senators’ request for national monument status for El Rio Grande del Norte. “Residents of northern New Mexico have
used this area for centuries to feed their families and pass on the hunting tradition,” he said. “As a national monument, we can be assured that those uses will continue on into the future.”

Read the entire announcement here.

Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman call for two National Monuments in New Mexico

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman have submitted a letter to the White House requesting President Obama consider designating two special areas in New Mexico as National Monuments - the Rio Grande del Norte, and the Organ Mountains and additional public lands down in Dona Ana County. The senators themselves have sponsored legislation that would elevate these two areas to National Conservation Area or Wilderness Area status, but acknowledged in their letter how difficult it has been to pass legislation in this Congress.

Udall and Bingaman’s letter to the President stated:

New Mexicans on every level, from grassroots campaigns to Mayors and County Commissioners, have expressed their support for the protection of these special places. Community leaders, business owners, student groups, and conservation advocates from across New Mexico have traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with your staff and representatives at the Department of Interior to lend their support for the protection of the Rio Grande del Norte in Taos County and the Organ, Potrillos, Robledo Mountains and related areas in Dona Ana County. Still, there is much work to be done to ensure these areas are protected this year.

We will continue to work to advance legislation in the Senate to conserve these important areas in New Mexico, but in the absence of any certainty about the passage of the legislation, we believe you should work with local communities to explore how a National Monument designation would protect the archeological and cultural resources in these two regions.

In their subsequent news release, Sens. Udall and Bingaman stressed that by designating the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains as National Monuments, the lands and their wildlife habitat could be protected while preserving existing uses such as hunting, fishing and grazing.

Read the complete Letter to President Obama here.

More from the Albuquerque Journal can be found here.

Mora Valley Chamber of Commerce support for Rio Grande del Norte

President of the Mora Valley Chamber of Commerce, Merl Witt, discussed the community support for permanent protection of Rio Grande Del Norte.

From The Taos News:

“The community supports this measure because we recognize the need to preserve some of our land to be able to continue our traditions and way of life here.


Safeguarding 236,000 acres in Taos and Rio Arriba counties as a conservation area, while allowing for grazing and the collection of firewood and piñón nuts to continue, benefits all concerned.


We support the bill because it is good for businesses that are a fit with the environment and the lifestyles of the region.”

Read the full article.

Rio Grande del Norte Area a Natural, Cultural Treasure

Erminio MartinezVeteran Erminio Martinez, from Taos, reflects on why Rio Grande del Norte should be permanently protected. From the Albuquerque Journal (April 29, 2012):

I was born and raised in Taos County and come from a ranching family that has lived off the land for eight generations. Today, as a registered grazing permittee, I continue to run cattle on several allotments throughout the Carson National Forest. Growing up in the ranching business allowed me the good fortune of spending most of my life in the great outdoors. Like my father and grandfather, I quickly learned to love the beauty of the wide-open landscapes and to understand the importance of sound conservation of the abundant natural resources on which so many New Mexicans depend for their livelihoods.

After my military service, I attended New Mexico Highlands University and then the National Judicial College. I served for 20 years as a magistrate judge in Taos County, and have worked for the Taos tribal government and the Pojoaque tribal government during my career. I continue to be active in conservation, including through my service with local land trusts.

To me, the wide open landscape of the Rio Grande del Norte area is a treasure that we must do all we can to protect. It is not only a natural treasure, but also a treasury of cultural resources and associations, evoking the Native American, Spanish, and American history that contribute to the diverse values of this area. Even though this region may seem relatively remote, it lies in the path of pressures for change that could slowly but surely affect the resources that makes this landscape so special.

Conservation is about exercising protection of our lands today with the foresight that our children and their children will inherit this precious landscape.

I believe that what Teddy Roosevelt said about the Grand Canyon should be our guidance for the Rio Grande del Norte: “In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

The Grand Canyon, of course, is a national park and is protected from all development. With the Rio Grande del Norte we have challenges, for this is a working landscape that embraces traditional land uses such as ranching, hunting, fishing and wood and herb gathering. For example, many local multi-generational ranching families like mine rely on their use of portions of these federal lands for grazing their livestock.

Fortunately, Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Congressmen Ben Ray Lujan and Martin Heinrich are working to ensure these land uses can continue, and that the land will stay undeveloped. After gathering support over the last few years with a broad cross-section of community members and local businesses, they have introduced legislation to designate two new wilderness areas and safeguard 236,000 acres as a National Conservation Area. The Rio Grande del Norte Conservation Area Establishment Act (H. R. 1241 and S. 667)is crafted to protect the not just grazing but other traditional uses that we have enjoyed for hundreds of years.

The balanced legislation stipulates that a comprehensive conservation and management plan will be prepared, with full opportunity for input from local residents, including grazing permittees and acequias associations. In this sense, the legislation creates an overall conservation framework for the area, and the subsequent conservation plan will fill in essential details. This will be done in an open, public, and democratic process, which assures all of us who live and work here that our voices will be heard in shaping the conservation and management of this tremendous resource.

Permanent protection for the Rio Grande del Norte area will be a gift we can pass down to all the generations of New Mexicans who will follow us. Congress should listen to the many voices who support this bill – ranchers, sportsmen, business owners, local elected officials – and pass this conservation bill currently in Congress.

House Committee Members Hear Testimony from Northern New Mexicans

Congressman Lujan’s legislation to protect nearly 236,000 acres in northern New Mexico took an important step toward enactment today, as members of the House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony from Northern New Mexicans. Both Senator Jeff Bingaman and Senator Tom Udall are original cosponsors of the legislation in the Senate. First introduced in 2009, the bill is the product of years of conversation and collaboration among northern New Mexico communities and stakeholders.

This important conservation bill makes good sense, both socially and economically. This land is a trust we inherited from our forebears and we need to be good stewards, to ensure that this shared natural treasure will be part of our grandchildren’s heritage.  Congressman Lujan’s legislation will preserve the area around the Rio Grande Gorge just as it is today, so that our descendents can use and know the area just as we have.

- Esther Garcia, Mayor of Questa, who testified on behalf of the legislation before the committee

Read Esther Garcia’s testimony.