New Mexico – Birthplace of Wilderness Twice Over
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance members know that our state is the birthplace of wilderness, but few realize that this is doubly true. Creation of the Gila Wilderness in 1924 in Gila National Forest set an extremely important precedent. However, the 1985 establishment of the Bisti and De Na Zin Badlands wildernesses in the San Juan Basin was an equally pioneering event. These first-ever BLM wildernesses began a paradigm change within an agency whose sole purpose had been to encourage exploitation of Public Lands. Today the BLM manages 222 official wilderness areas totaling 8.6 million acres in 10 western states. That’s very significant progress for an federal organization which up until 1976 was only a “temporary” agency charged with disposing of Public Lands. It all started with the San Juan Basin Badlands.
The San Juan Basin Badlands Coalition Campaign
When NMWA spearheaded efforts to get the Ojito Badlands wilderness status in 2005, we broke a 17-year dry spell in wilderness formation for New Mexico and established another precedent: coalition building among the state’s diverse environmental organizations.
Now NMWA is again acting on behalf of the 14 San Juan Basin Badlands by joining with the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Southwest Chapter of the Wilderness Society to form a San Juan Basin Badlands Coalition. While our long range goal is to upgrade permanent protection levels for all the SJB Badlands by working with the BLM, the New Mexico congressional delegation, and contiguous Native American and ranching communities, our immediate focus is on 6 badlands that lie within the BLM’s Rio Puerco Field Office jurisdiction: Cejita Blanca, Ceja Pelon, Mesa Penistaja, Mesa Chijuilla, Mesa de Cuba, and La Lena.
We recognize that all 14 SJB Badlands have unique scenic, ecological, scientific, educational, and recreational resources which deserve much greater recognition and protection, but we currently have the best chance to directly influence BLM management practices regarding the 6 badlands mentioned above. Visit PhotoTrekNM.com for extensive SJB badlands info and 1000-plus images.
SJB Badlands Coalition Campaign Mission Statement
The goal is to mobilize as many people as possible to be ready to submit comments to the BLM’s Rio Puerco Field Office on behalf of 6 SJB badlands under their jurisdiction when the office publishes it’s new Resource Management Plan this December. This first draft publication begins a 90 day public comment period. The public’s preferences are then incorporated into the final version which will guide the Rio Puerco Field Office’s management decisions for up to 20 years.
Previous work with the Rio Puerco Field Office involving badland tours and follow up meetings really paid off. One of the alternative management strategies in their upcoming RMP draft is to treat the badlands as Special Recreation Management Areas or SRMAs. Besides elevated protection, this designation carries extra funding to help with the management practices. We need to get as many pro-SRMA badlands comments into the Rio Puerco office as possible once the comment period starts.
We realize that SRMA designation is an important first step that should be followed by more permanent legislative actions. But considering that most of these six badlands where virtually unknown or at least unnoticed by the BLM just a year ago, this is a quantum leap in agency awareness and a strong precedent for further legislative action.
YOUR NEXT STEP: VISIT THE BADLANDS!
A number of hikes led by Badlands activist Mike Richie in Fall 2010 received rave reviews and raised awareness of this unique region. Stay tuned to our events calendar for future hikes. For more information on hiking in the Badlands, contact firstname.lastname@example.org