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Groundbreaking progress for New Mexico: U.S. House passes bill to create Columbine Hondo Wilderness

For Immediate Release
December 4, 2014

The legislation now moves on to Senate

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild), part of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition, today celebrated the passage of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776/H.R. 1683), as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3879). The defense bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Columbine Hondo provision in the legislation will protect 45,000 acres of incredible wildlife habitat, an important source of clean water, and a prized hunting and fishing destination.

The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act was introduced by Senator Tom Udall and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich. A House companion was introduced by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1).

The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act passed along with several other wilderness bills that would protect almost 250,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and Washington.

“Thank you to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Luján and Lujan Grisham for your hard work and dedication and for making Wilderness a priority,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild.

Community support for safeguarding the Columbine Hondo has been broad and deep. The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition includes business owners, ranchers, sportsmen, Acequia parciantes, mountain bikers, elected officials, conservationists, and others who have worked together for years to preserve this natural treasure.

“NM Wild is proud to be part of a diverse coalition in Taos County that includes elected officials, Acequia partners, land-grant members and livestock grazing permittees,” said John Olivas, traditional community organizer for NM Wild. “We have worked for many years on the Columbine Hondo campaign, and it is wonderful to see each of us reach this historic milestone that will protect 45,000 additional acres in Taos County for future generations.”

“The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act will forever protect our land and water that the people of Red River and other communities depend upon” said Mayor of Red River, Linda Calhoun. “It is a true bipartisan measure supported by people from all walks of life.”

Just north of Taos, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is the last remaining portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to be designated as wilderness. It is crowned by 13 miles of high alpine ridges and peaks that tower above 11,000 feet, including its high point, Gold Hill at 12,711 feet elevation.

“My family has depended on the Columbine Hondo for years,” said Erminio Martinez, a livestock permittee in Columbine Hondo. “It is our responsibility to preserve our land and water, and I want to thank our Senators and Representatives for working so hard to pass the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act this year.”

Columbine Hondo is home to elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, pine marten, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This area is a significant clean water source for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico, supplying water to two of the larger Rio Grande tributaries – the Red River and the Rio Hondo. The water safeguarded in the Columbine Hondo area supplies many Acequias used by the local agricultural community.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and I cannot think of a wilderness more deserving of protection than Columbine Hondo,” said Roberta Salazar, Executive Director of Rivers & Birds. “I am thankful that Congress listened to our community and safeguarded this amazing area.”

New Mexico becomes wilderness headquarters

For Immediate Release
November 7, 2014

Contact:
Mark Allison; 505-843-8696, ext. 105

Largest concentration of wilderness advocates in the world convene
to talk about the past, present and future of wilderness in America


Albuquerque—Nov. 7, 2014—New Mexico could now be considered the headquarters of the wilderness protection movement.

The single greatest concentration of wilderness advocates on the planet gathered in Albuquerque in October to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in the birthplace of the concept of wilderness—New Mexico.

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance was proud to co-host this historic event. A conference of its kind has not taken place in 25 years.

The Gila Wilderness was the world’s first designated wilderness in 1924. The state has also been home to a number of people who were essential to the wilderness movement:

  • Edgar Lee Hewitt, who authored what became known as the Antiquities Act
  • Aldo Leopold, whose vision and efforts led to the creation of the Gila Wilderness in 1924
  • Senator Clinton P. Anderson, the floor manager of the Wilderness Act
  • Private citizens like Ed Abbey, environmentalist and author

“We’re proud of the special role that New Mexico has played,” said Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “During this special anniversary year, we want to remind ourselves why wilderness is essential, honor the vision and efforts of those who came before us and renew our commitment to preserve additional deserving lands now under threat.”

With only about 2 percent of qualifying wilderness in New Mexico federally protected, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance works on the ground to fight for more protected wilderness within the Land of Enchantment.

“The National Wilderness Conference left us rejuvenated, and we rededicated ourselves to protecting the wild lands we still have left,” Allison said.

U.S. Senate Committee Sends Columbine Hondo to Floor for Consideration

For Immediate Release
November 13, 2014

TAOS, NM (November 13, 2014) – The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) today applauded the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for passing the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776) out of Committee. The Act now awaits passage on the Senate floor. The legislation would protect 45,000 acres of incredible wildlife habitat, an important source of clean water, and a prized hunting and fishing destination.
The clock is ticking for wilderness bills across the country. More than two dozen wilderness bills are pending in Congress, including the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act. NM Wild is hopeful Congress moves to protect Columbine Hondo during the Lame Duck session of Congress.

The Act was introduced by Sen. Tom Udall and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) introduced a House companion (H.R. 1683) that is co-sponsored by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1).

“I want to thank senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham for their leadership in moving the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act,” said Linda Calhoun, mayor of Red River. “Now it is time for Congress to follow our delegation’s lead and pass this bill into law this year.”

Community support for safeguarding the Columbine Hondo is broad and deep. The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition includes business owners, ranchers, sportsmen, Acequia parciantes, mountain bikers, elected officials, conservationists, and others who have worked together for years to preserve this natural treasure.

“Protecting Columbine Hondo as wilderness will safeguard critical wildlife habitat loved by those who come hunt, fish, and view,” said Max Trujillo of New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “The sportsman’s way of life is a time-tested tradition in northern New Mexico, and I want to thank Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Luján and Lujan Grisham for working to maintain our way of life.”

Just north of Taos, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is the last remaining portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to be designated as wilderness. It is crowned by 13 miles of high alpine ridges and peaks that tower above 11,000 feet, including its high point, Gold Hill at 12,711 feet elevation.

“The Columbine Hondo has sustained my family for eight generations,” said Erminio Martinez, a livestock permittee in Columbine Hondo. “It is our responsibility to the ninth, tenth, and all future generations to preserve our land and water. I want to thank our Senators and Representatives for working so hard to pass the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act this year.”

Columbine Hondo is home to elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, pine marten, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This area is a significant clean water source for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico, supplying water to two of the larger Rio Grande tributaries – the Red River and the Rio Hondo. The water safeguarded in the Columbine Hondo area supplies many Acequias used by the local agricultural community.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and I cannot think of a better time to preserve Columbine Hondo,” said Roberta Salazar, Executive Director of Rivers & Birds. “Wilderness protection in New Mexico has always been a steadfast American value and has bipartisan support on-the-ground. It is time for Congress to act.”


The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition urges Congress to protect the Columbine Hondo as wilderness this year.

NM Wild Staff Members Embark On Historic 50-Mile Gila Trek To Commemorate 90th Anniversary

For Immediate Release
May 27, 2014

Contact: Tina Deines
505-843-8696, ext. 104
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Albuquerque—May 27, 2014—New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness is celebrating its 90th birthday June 3—it was the first protected wilderness in the United States. To commemorate this anniversary, NM Wild Executive Director Mark Allison and Gila Grassroots Organizer Nathan Newcomer are embarking on a historic 50 mile, rugged Gila River trek starting today.

The purpose of this trek is two-fold. First, NM Wild plans to deliver once again on our Gila Wilderness protection promise through field research—that’s the work of Mark and Nathan.

Allison and Newcomer will speak aloud, within the heart of the Gila Wilderness, names given to NM Wild by its membership to commemorate friends and family who shared a love of the Gila.

From Aldo Leopold and the creation of America’s first designated wilderness to Senator Clinton P. Anderson’s role in passing the Wilderness Act of 1964, New Mexico has a rich and proud legacy protecting wild places.

“During this special anniversary year, we want to remind ourselves why wilderness is essential, honor the vision and efforts of those who came before us and renew our commitment to protect additional deserving lands now under threat” stated Allison. “Being entrusted with the names and stories of our members’ loved ones is deeply humbling and causes me to look forward to experiencing this special place again even more with the reminder that it will remain long after we’re gone for future generations to discover and enjoy and fiercely protect.”

The Gila Wilderness and the adjacent Aldo Leopold Wilderness is one of the largest and wildest areas in the lower 48. The beautiful Gila River is one of the last wild, free flowing rivers in the Southwest (and currently under threat from an ill-conceived diversion plan.) The Gila holds a special place in the hearts of many.

NM Wild research confirms miles of the Gila River are eligible for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

On June 4, Allison and Newcomer will talk about the results of this Gila trek with a “virtual hike” experience taking place at the Silver City Museum at 2 p.m. This coincides with the Gila Wild exhibit, which kicked off May 24.

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The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and on-going advocacy.

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