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Legislation reintroduced to support protection of Rio Grande del Norte
Udall, Heinrich and Luján reaffirm support for permanent protection of Northern New Mexico land
 
In a move that re-affirms their dedication to preserving Northern New Mexico’s best wild lands, senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Luján Thursday re-introduced legislation to protect Rio Grande del Norte.
 
“We are pleased that senators Udall and Heinrich along with Representative Luján re-affirmed their support for Rio Grande del Norte. We hope this action will serve as a catalyst for President Obama to use his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate Rio Grande del Norte as a protected area within Taos County,” said John Olivas, Traditional Community Organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Yesterday’s actions by the New Mexico delegation bring us one step closer to permanent protection for Rio Grande del Norte.”
 
“Some of Northern New Mexico’s most historically and culturally rich treasures can be found in these areas,” said Udall. “The residents of Taos and Rio Arriba counties have joined us in an effort to protect their incredible landscapes and ensure the lands remain accessible for the benefit of locals and visitors. I was proud to take up this initiative with Jeff Bingaman and we will work to see that the preservation of the Río Grande del Norte is part of his lasting legacy.”
 
The legislation would protect 235,000 acres and includes two new Wilderness Areas totaling about 24,000 acres. It would also protect grazing, hunting, gathering of firewood and other traditional uses. Legislation to protect Rio Grande del Norte was introduced during the 111th and 112th Congress, but it failed to pass in either session due to a broken Congress.  
 
In December, NM Wild joined Hispano leaders and organizations, small business owners, the Taos and Mora Valley chambers of commerce, sportsmen, ranchers, the Taos Pueblo, and local elected officials to urge Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to ask the administration to protect Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument.
 
“Protecting this land should be a top priority, and Secretary Salazar’s visit to Taos in December of last year reinforced that there is overwhelming support by the local community to do so,” Luján said.
 
In addition to reintroducing legislation, senators Udall and Heinrich and Representative Luján reaffirmed their ongoing support in their press releases for President Obama to designate Rio Grande del Norte National Monument by using the Antiquities Act.
 
Rio Grande del Norte contains some of the most ecologically significant lands in northern New Mexico that provide excellent habitat for a number of species. This legislation would also protect Ute Mountain, which towers over the region, and the vast recreational opportunities contained within the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau.  
 
“These lands are also important to residents and visitors who come for the recreation opportunities, like hunting and fishing, and who bring a lot of resources into New Mexico’s economy, especially rural communities,” Heinrich said.
 
According to a 2012 economic study, a national monument designation in northern New Mexico is estimated to fuel $15 million in new economic benefits, by boosting tourism and supporting ongoing grazing.
 

 

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