Senators Heinrich and Udall reintroduce bill to protect wilderness within the national monument
Susan Torres, [email protected], 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.”