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  • Matthew van Buren for The Taos News

    The Río Grande del Norte may have been designated a national monument this spring, but congressional efforts to create wilderness areas around Ute Mountain and the Río San Antonio continue.

    Earlier legislation to create a Río Grande del Norte Conservation Area around the Río Grande Gorge also contained language that would have established a 13,420-acre “Cerro del Yuta Wilderness” around Ute Mountain in Taos County and an 8,000-acre “Río San Antonio Wilderness” in Río Arriba County.

    President Obama used his powers under the Antiquities Act to create the 242,555-acre Río Grande del Norte National Monument March 25, but a May 16 markup by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources keeps a piece of the conservation area legislation in play.

    An amendment to the bill revises language so instead of creating a conservation area it seeks to “establish certain wilderness areas in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.” The new legislation is known as the “Cerros del Norte Conservation Act.”

    U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, sits on the committee and co-sponsored legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, to create the conservation area and wildernesses. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, introduced companion legislation in the House.

    Sam DesGeorges, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Taos field office, said the BLM’s existing land-use plans identify the Río San Antonio as a wilderness study area and Ute Mountain as an area that has “wilderness characteristics.” He said the BLM will continue to protect the cultural, natural and scientific resources in both areas.

    Hunting, fishing and conservation groups in New Mexico are praising the committee’s vote to create the two wildernesses. According to a joint release from Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, officially designating the new wilderness areas would give the areas the “highest level of protection available for natural, historical and cultural resources” while continuing to allow hunting, fishing and other traditional uses.

    “The additional protections contained in this new legislation will finish the campaign to permanently protect the Río Grande del Norte,” Max Trujillo, sportsman organizer for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, is quoted as saying in the release. “These two wilderness designations will ensure that future generations of hunters and fishermen will always have truly wild places to visit in Northern New Mexico.”

    Toner Mitchell, Trout Unlimited public lands coordinator for New Mexico, said wilderness designation is necessary to protect the trout stream that runs through San Antonio Canyon.

    “New Mexico’s coldwater fisheries need all the protection they can get, and this bill will go a long way to ensure that the Río San Antonio remains clean and pure,” he is quoted as saying. “It also ensures that our thriving recreation-based economy will continue to create jobs in Northern New Mexico.”

    The amended bill joins another pending piece of legislation that would create a wilderness around the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo are north of Taos. The Columbine-Hondo has been designated a “Wilderness Study Area” since 1980. Udall and Luján also introduced Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Acts in the Senate and House, respectively. Those bills are still in committee.

  • Matthew van Buren for The Taos News

    The Río Grande del Norte may have been designated a national monument this spring, but congressional efforts to create wilderness areas around Ute Mountain and the Río San Antonio continue.

    Earlier legislation to create a Río Grande del Norte Conservation Area around the Río Grande Gorge also contained language that would have established a 13,420-acre “Cerro del Yuta Wilderness” around Ute Mountain in Taos County and an 8,000-acre “Río San Antonio Wilderness” in Río Arriba County.

    President Obama used his powers under the Antiquities Act to create the 242,555-acre Río Grande del Norte National Monument March 25, but a May 16 markup by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources keeps a piece of the conservation area legislation in play.

    An amendment to the bill revises language so instead of creating a conservation area it seeks to “establish certain wilderness areas in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.” The new legislation is known as the “Cerros del Norte Conservation Act.”

    U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, sits on the committee and co-sponsored legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, to create the conservation area and wildernesses. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, introduced companion legislation in the House.

    Sam DesGeorges, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Taos field office, said the BLM’s existing land-use plans identify the Río San Antonio as a wilderness study area and Ute Mountain as an area that has “wilderness characteristics.” He said the BLM will continue to protect the cultural, natural and scientific resources in both areas.

    Hunting, fishing and conservation groups in New Mexico are praising the committee’s vote to create the two wildernesses. According to a joint release from Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, officially designating the new wilderness areas would give the areas the “highest level of protection available for natural, historical and cultural resources” while continuing to allow hunting, fishing and other traditional uses.

    “The additional protections contained in this new legislation will finish the campaign to permanently protect the Río Grande del Norte,” Max Trujillo, sportsman organizer for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, is quoted as saying in the release. “These two wilderness designations will ensure that future generations of hunters and fishermen will always have truly wild places to visit in Northern New Mexico.”

    Toner Mitchell, Trout Unlimited public lands coordinator for New Mexico, said wilderness designation is necessary to protect the trout stream that runs through San Antonio Canyon.

    “New Mexico’s coldwater fisheries need all the protection they can get, and this bill will go a long way to ensure that the Río San Antonio remains clean and pure,” he is quoted as saying. “It also ensures that our thriving recreation-based economy will continue to create jobs in Northern New Mexico.”

    The amended bill joins another pending piece of legislation that would create a wilderness around the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo are north of Taos. The Columbine-Hondo has been designated a “Wilderness Study Area” since 1980. Udall and Luján also introduced Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Acts in the Senate and House, respectively. Those bills are still in committee.

  • Matthew van Buren for The Taos News

    The Río Grande del Norte may have been designated a national monument this spring, but congressional efforts to create wilderness areas around Ute Mountain and the Río San Antonio continue.

    Earlier legislation to create a Río Grande del Norte Conservation Area around the Río Grande Gorge also contained language that would have established a 13,420-acre “Cerro del Yuta Wilderness” around Ute Mountain in Taos County and an 8,000-acre “Río San Antonio Wilderness” in Río Arriba County.

    President Obama used his powers under the Antiquities Act to create the 242,555-acre Río Grande del Norte National Monument March 25, but a May 16 markup by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources keeps a piece of the conservation area legislation in play.

    An amendment to the bill revises language so instead of creating a conservation area it seeks to “establish certain wilderness areas in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.” The new legislation is known as the “Cerros del Norte Conservation Act.”

    U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, sits on the committee and co-sponsored legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, to create the conservation area and wildernesses. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, introduced companion legislation in the House.

    Sam DesGeorges, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Taos field office, said the BLM’s existing land-use plans identify the Río San Antonio as a wilderness study area and Ute Mountain as an area that has “wilderness characteristics.” He said the BLM will continue to protect the cultural, natural and scientific resources in both areas.

    Hunting, fishing and conservation groups in New Mexico are praising the committee’s vote to create the two wildernesses. According to a joint release from Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, officially designating the new wilderness areas would give the areas the “highest level of protection available for natural, historical and cultural resources” while continuing to allow hunting, fishing and other traditional uses.

    “The additional protections contained in this new legislation will finish the campaign to permanently protect the Río Grande del Norte,” Max Trujillo, sportsman organizer for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, is quoted as saying in the release. “These two wilderness designations will ensure that future generations of hunters and fishermen will always have truly wild places to visit in Northern New Mexico.”

    Toner Mitchell, Trout Unlimited public lands coordinator for New Mexico, said wilderness designation is necessary to protect the trout stream that runs through San Antonio Canyon.

    “New Mexico’s coldwater fisheries need all the protection they can get, and this bill will go a long way to ensure that the Río San Antonio remains clean and pure,” he is quoted as saying. “It also ensures that our thriving recreation-based economy will continue to create jobs in Northern New Mexico.”

    The amended bill joins another pending piece of legislation that would create a wilderness around the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo are north of Taos. The Columbine-Hondo has been designated a “Wilderness Study Area” since 1980. Udall and Luján also introduced Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Acts in the Senate and House, respectively. Those bills are still in committee.

  • The New York Times
    THE EDITORIAL BOARD
    July 17, 2013

    There is a unit within the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service called Wildlife Services. Its official mission, according to its Web site, is “to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” This has meant, since 2000, some two million dead animals. The list includes coyotes, beavers, mountain lions, black bears and innumerable birds. The agency’s real mission? To make life safer for livestock and game species.

    There will obviously be times when livestock and predators come into conflict, when coyotes kill lambs and black bears become too accustomed to humans and cause genuine harm. But Wildlife Services’ lethal damage is broad and secretive, according to a series in The Sacramento Bee last year. The techniques are old-fashioned — steel traps and cyanide cartridges — and the result, according to a new study in the journal Conservation Letters, is a program that is wasteful, destructive to the balance of ecosystems and, ultimately, ineffective.

    Under one name or another — for years it was part of the Interior Department — the agency has been doing its work as quietly as possible, though not without protest from Congress, scientists and members of the public who got wind of what was going on. Two House members — John Campbell, a California Republican; and Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat — have pressed for Congressional hearings and have asked the Agriculture Department’s inspector general to investigate Wildlife Services.

    The agency, opponents say, has not scientifically evaluated the consequences of its actions and has consistently understated the damage it does to “nontarget” species, like songbirds. Its work also undercuts other programs intended to protect the balance of natural ecosystems.

    It is time the public got a clear picture of what Wildlife Services is up to, and time for the Department of Agriculture to bring the agency’s work into accord with sound biological practices. Resolving wildlife conflicts need not involve indiscriminate killing.

  • By JOHN PODESTA
    Politico.com
    10/31/13 

    The House Republicans’ 16-day government shutdown cost the economy $24 billion, shaved .25 percent from fourth-quarter economic growth and damaged the reputation of the United States.

    But for many Americans, it was the closure of 401 national parks and monuments that brought the shutdown home. Each day of the shutdown, communities near parks lost an estimated total of $76 million in economic activity.

    Of the many lessons our leaders ought to learn from the shutdown, this one is central: America’s parks are a national treasure and a crucial economic engine for many parts of the country. Elected leaders should take swift action to open new parks, wildlife refuges, monuments and recreation and wilderness areas for the enjoyment of the public instead of slashing budgets, laying off rangers and closing parks.

    For most Americans, creating and protecting parks is not a partisan issue. Last November, American communities passed 46 separate ballot measures that collectively invest $767 million to build new parks and protect open space and quality drinking water. Public opinion research commissioned by the Center for American Progress found that Americans’ top priority for their public lands is to ensure that they are protected for future generations to enjoy.

    But since the tea party takeover of the House in 2010 — and for the first time since World War II — Congress has not protected a single new acre of land as a national park, monument or wilderness area. Instead, they have cut the National Park Service budget by 13 percent over the past three years even as the number of visitors to many of America’s national parks has reached record levels.

    To break the hold of anti-park advocates in Congress, President Barack Obama, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack should take this opportunity to lead a renewed movement for parks and public lands. Together with moderate leaders from both parties, the president can take three immediate steps to restore and protect public lands.

    First, as budget negotiations begin again, Washington must ensure that America’s forests, parks and public lands have the staff and funding they need to stay open for their full season.

    Second, we should finally and permanently dedicate a portion of offshore oil and gas revenues to help communities protect parks and open spaces through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as they were originally intended.

    Third, the president should take a page from his predecessors and use his executive authorities to immediately establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico and a new national monument in California’s San Gabriel Mountains, proposals that are strongly supported by local communities. Since 2009, the Obama administration has leased two and a half times more acreage on public lands to oil and gas companies than it has set aside for conservation. It’s past time to restore the balance between conservation and energy exploration on public lands.

    The president should also insist that Congress free more than two dozen stalled wilderness, parks and conservation bills. These bills, customarily sponsored by home-state senators and representatives, would protect nearly 4 million acres of land from Oregon to Tennessee. If Congress continues to close parks instead of creating new ones, however, the president should make clear that he will use executive authority to protect these places.

    Wallace Stegner called national parks “the best idea we ever had.” From Mount Rainier to Mount Rushmore, from the North Cascades to Acadia, our system of national parks, forests and public lands is enjoyed by millions of Americans, fuels local economies and preserves wild, beautiful, free places for generations to come. If the Obama administration drives the public lands agenda forward, the American people will leave Congress no choice but to follow. Our country and our future will be better for it.

    John Podesta is chairman of the Center for American Progress.

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/john-podesta-national-parks-99114.html#ixzz2ju3Cs7B5

  • National Park Service Wilderness Act video.

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  • For Immediate Release
    March 22, 2013

    Contact: John Olivas 505-379-5551
    Tisha Broska 505-843-8696

    TAOS, N.M., March 21, 2013 –—President Obama today announced his intent to designate the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico on Monday, protecting some 240,000 acres in Taos County, including the Taos Plateau, Ute Mountain, and the Rio Grande Gorge.

    “We are thrilled that President Obama will use his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate Rio Grande del Norte as a protected area, keeping it free of development,” said John Olivas, Traditional Community Organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Many generations have enjoyed and lived off this landscape, and today President Obama has ensured the local community that this special place will stay as it is for our children, grandchildren, and those who follow.”

    The Rio Grande River that encompasses the RGDN area was protected in 1968 under the National Wild and Scenic River System and this new layer of protection as a National Monument adds security to the land surrounding the river. The designation also safeguards hunting, fishing, grazing, wood gathering, and herb/piñon gathering.

    Over the last two decades, supporters—including grazing permittees, Taos Pueblo leadership, land grant heirs, acequia parciantes and mayordomos, local businesses, elected officials and a host of individual supporters—have urged the New Mexico federal delegation to move forward to protect this landscape as a legislative National Conservation Area. Today, under the authority of the Antiquities Act, President Obama has made Rio Grande del Norte a protected landscape.

    On December 15, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Taos County and held a town hall event to seek input from a standing-room-only group of supporters that unanimously asked Salazar to recommend to President Obama that a Rio Grande del Norte National Monument be created.

    “This national monument designation will serve as a fitting legacy to retired Senator Jeff Bingaman, a champion for conservation in New Mexico,” Olivas said. “He introduced legislation to safeguard this area years ago, and worked diligently with his colleagues to move it through Congress.” Representative Ben Ray Luján and Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich backed Bingaman’s efforts through the years, in an attempt to preserve the land in its natural state. “We are grateful for the swift action of President Obama to allow us to pass down this land and our traditions to future generations.”

    Esther Garcia, president of San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant and mayor of the Village of Questa, said the preservation of traditional rights outlined in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is an important feature of the new monument. Mayor Garcia has also been invited to attend the White House ceremony next week.

    “Those of us with deep roots here appreciate that this designation will preserve grazing within the national monument area and specifically protects our right to hunt, fish and collect piñon nuts and firewood,” Garcia said. ”It will direct the Bureau of Land Management to protect the cultural, natural and scenic resources in the area, and protects rights granted under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Monument designation ensures that these ancestral lands will remain for future generations to use and enjoy.”

    Designation as a national monument is broadly backed by Taos County Commission, Taos Village Council, Taos Pueblo, Taos Chamber of Commerce, Taos Green Chamber, Taos Ski Valley, Village of Red River and more than 100 local businesses that recognize the importance monument designation has to local economies. Traditional users of the land such as hunters, fishermen, land grants, acequias, grazing permittees and tribal citizens all support President Obama’s historic move to protect the RGDN.

    The southern New Mexico community cheered the announcement that Rio Grande del Norte will be protected as a national monument designation, while also urging similar action for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County. Las Cruces Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Thomas pointed out that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region enjoys overwhelming support from local businesses, sportsmen, cultural organizations and local governments.

    “Thank you for announcing that the Rio Grande del Norte will soon become a national monument, President Obama. What Rio Grande del Norte is to northern New Mexico, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are to southern New Mexico,” Thomas said. “We hope you will also consider the same protection for southern New Mexico’s iconic Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, where unique Chihuahuan Desert wild lands possess rich American history including the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Apollo Space Mission training sites, and literally thousands of Native American cultural and archeological areas.”

    Timeline of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance’s involvement:

    2007: NM Wild staff member Jim O’Donnell starts work on the Rio Grande del Norte campaign.
    June 2007: Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signs letter of support for the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area.
    2008: NM Wild Traditional Community Organizer John Olivas begins working on the campaign. Olivas quickly gains support of the Northern New Mexico land grant community, which all starts in the living room of Esther Garcia.*
    June 2008: Land Grant of San Antonio del Rio Colorado signs a resolution of support.
    April 2009: Senator Bingaman introduces El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area legislation (co-sponsored by Senator Tom Udall)in the Senate on April 23, 2009,
    May 2009: Taos and Mora Valley chambers of commerce sign resolutions of support. Taos County Commission passes resolution of support.
    May 2010: Congressman Lujan introduces legislation for Rio Grande del Norte NCA and Wilderness (cosponsored by Representative Martin Heinrich) into the House of Representatives on May 18, 2010. .
    August 2010: NM Wild arranges for a flyover of the proposal area with media members from the Santa Fe New Mexican, a freelance writer, a member of NM Wild’s WOCLP** program and a Santa Fe County Commissioner. An additional flyover is conducted later that month and includes staff from Congressman Lujan and senators Bingaman and Udall, and Taos County elected officials.
    March 2011: New legislation is introduced into the 112th Congress
    May 2012: Taos County Commission passes an updated resolution of support.
    June 2012: Santa Fe City Council and Taos Ski Valley Inc. pass resolutions of support.
    December 2012: Rio Grande del Norte Grazing Permittees sign letter of support.
    January 2013: Pueblo of Taos signs resolution of support.

    Over 3,000 letters of support have been collected by NM Wild for RGDN.

    *Garcia is an 11th generation New Mexican who has been very active in the northern New Mexico community. She is the Chairwoman of the Board of San Antonio Del Rio Colorado Land Grant, and is Commissioner for the Cabresto Lake Irrigation Community Ditch Association and is very active with the New Mexico Acequia Association. She is currently the Mayor of Questa. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance would like to thank Garcia for all that she has done to support our efforts for Rio Grande del Norte.

    ** Olivas started the Wilderness Outdoor Connection Leadership Program (WOCLP) to work with youth in Mora and Questa in May 2008. The program began to help foster the next generation of conservation advocates in northern New Mexico. Students assisted in obtaining skills around grass roots organizing, working with federal delegation and their staff to create federal law and visited the campaign area, specifically Ute Mountain, Wild Rivers Recreation Area and the Rio Grande Gorge.

  • For Immediate Release

    March 22, 2013

    Contact: John Olivas 505-379-5551
    Tisha Broska 505-843-8696

    TAOS, N.M., March 21, 2013 –—President Obama today announced his intent to designate the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico on Monday, protecting some 240,000 acres in Taos County, including the Taos Plateau, Ute Mountain, and the Rio Grande Gorge.

    “We are thrilled that President Obama will use his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate Rio Grande del Norte as a protected area, keeping it free of development,” said John Olivas, Traditional Community Organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Many generations have enjoyed and lived off this landscape, and today President Obama has ensured the local community that this special place will stay as it is for our children, grandchildren, and those who follow.”

    The Rio Grande River that encompasses the RGDN area was protected in 1968 under the National Wild and Scenic River System and this new layer of protection as a National Monument adds security to the land surrounding the river. The designation also safeguards hunting, fishing, grazing, wood gathering, and herb/piñon gathering.

    Over the last two decades, supporters—including grazing permittees, Taos Pueblo leadership, land grant heirs, acequia parciantes and mayordomos, local businesses, elected officials and a host of individual supporters—have urged the New Mexico federal delegation to move forward to protect this landscape as a legislative National Conservation Area. Today, under the authority of the Antiquities Act, President Obama has made Rio Grande del Norte a protected landscape.

    On December 15, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Taos County and held a town hall event to seek input from a standing-room-only group of supporters that unanimously asked Salazar to recommend to President Obama that a Rio Grande del Norte National Monument be created.

    “This national monument designation will serve as a fitting legacy to retired Senator Jeff Bingaman, a champion for conservation in New Mexico,” Olivas said. “He introduced legislation to safeguard this area years ago, and worked diligently with his colleagues to move it through Congress.” Representative Ben Ray Luján and Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich backed Bingaman’s efforts through the years, in an attempt to preserve the land in its natural state. “We are grateful for the swift action of President Obama to allow us to pass down this land and our traditions to future generations.”

    Esther Garcia, president of San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant and mayor of the Village of Questa, said the preservation of traditional rights outlined in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is an important feature of the new monument. Mayor Garcia has also been invited to attend the White House ceremony next week.

    “Those of us with deep roots here appreciate that this designation will preserve grazing within the national monument area and specifically protects our right to hunt, fish and collect piñon nuts and firewood,” Garcia said. ”It will direct the Bureau of Land Management to protect the cultural, natural and scenic resources in the area, and protects rights granted under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Monument designation ensures that these ancestral lands will remain for future generations to use and enjoy.”

    Designation as a national monument is broadly backed by Taos County Commission, Taos Village Council, Taos Pueblo, Taos Chamber of Commerce, Taos Green Chamber, Taos Ski Valley, Village of Red River and more than 100 local businesses that recognize the importance monument designation has to local economies. Traditional users of the land such as hunters, fishermen, land grants, acequias, grazing permittees and tribal citizens all support President Obama’s historic move to protect the RGDN.

    The southern New Mexico community cheered the announcement that Rio Grande del Norte will be protected as a national monument designation, while also urging similar action for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County. Las Cruces Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Thomas pointed out that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region enjoys overwhelming support from local businesses, sportsmen, cultural organizations and local governments.

    “Thank you for announcing that the Rio Grande del Norte will soon become a national monument, President Obama. What Rio Grande del Norte is to northern New Mexico, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are to southern New Mexico,” Thomas said. “We hope you will also consider the same protection for southern New Mexico’s iconic Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, where unique Chihuahuan Desert wild lands possess rich American history including the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Apollo Space Mission training sites, and literally thousands of Native American cultural and archeological areas.”

    Timeline of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance’s involvement:

    2007: NM Wild staff member Jim O’Donnell starts work on the Rio Grande del Norte campaign.
    June 2007: Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signs letter of support for the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area.
    2008: NM Wild Traditional Community Organizer John Olivas begins working on the campaign. Olivas quickly gains support of the Northern New Mexico land grant community, which all starts in the living room of Esther Garcia.*
    June 2008: Land Grant of San Antonio del Rio Colorado signs a resolution of support.
    April 2009: Senator Bingaman introduces El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area legislation (co-sponsored by Senator Tom Udall)in the Senate on April 23, 2009,
    May 2009: Taos and Mora Valley chambers of commerce sign resolutions of support. Taos County Commission passes resolution of support.
    May 2010: Congressman Lujan introduces legislation for Rio Grande del Norte NCA and Wilderness (cosponsored by Representative Martin Heinrich) into the House of Representatives on May 18, 2010. .
    August 2010: NM Wild arranges for a flyover of the proposal area with media members from the Santa Fe New Mexican, a freelance writer, a member of NM Wild’s WOCLP** program and a Santa Fe County Commissioner. An additional flyover is conducted later that month and includes staff from Congressman Lujan and senators Bingaman and Udall, and Taos County elected officials.
    March 2011: New legislation is introduced into the 112th Congress
    May 2012: Taos County Commission passes an updated resolution of support.
    June 2012: Santa Fe City Council and Taos Ski Valley Inc. pass resolutions of support.
    December 2012: Rio Grande del Norte Grazing Permittees sign letter of support.
    January 2013: Pueblo of Taos signs resolution of support.

    Over 3,000 letters of support have been collected by NM Wild for RGDN.

    *Garcia is an 11th generation New Mexican who has been very active in the northern New Mexico community. She is the Chairwoman of the Board of San Antonio Del Rio Colorado Land Grant, and is Commissioner for the Cabresto Lake Irrigation Community Ditch Association and is very active with the New Mexico Acequia Association. She is currently the Mayor of Questa. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance would like to thank Garcia for all that she has done to support our efforts for Rio Grande del Norte.

    ** Olivas started the Wilderness Outdoor Connection Leadership Program (WOCLP) to work with youth in Mora and Questa in May 2008. The program began to help foster the next generation of conservation advocates in northern New Mexico. Students assisted in obtaining skills around grass roots organizing, working with federal delegation and their staff to create federal law and visited the campaign area, specifically Ute Mountain, Wild Rivers Recreation Area and the Rio Grande Gorge.

  • For Immediate Release
    March 22, 2013

    Contact: John Olivas 505-379-5551
    Tisha Broska 505-843-8696

    TAOS, N.M., March 21, 2013 –—President Obama today announced his intent to designate the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico on Monday, protecting some 240,000 acres in Taos County, including the Taos Plateau, Ute Mountain, and the Rio Grande Gorge.

    “We are thrilled that President Obama will use his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate Rio Grande del Norte as a protected area, keeping it free of development,” said John Olivas, Traditional Community Organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Many generations have enjoyed and lived off this landscape, and today President Obama has ensured the local community that this special place will stay as it is for our children, grandchildren, and those who follow.”

    The Rio Grande River that encompasses the RGDN area was protected in 1968 under the National Wild and Scenic River System and this new layer of protection as a National Monument adds security to the land surrounding the river. The designation also safeguards hunting, fishing, grazing, wood gathering, and herb/piñon gathering.

    Over the last two decades, supporters—including grazing permittees, Taos Pueblo leadership, land grant heirs, acequia parciantes and mayordomos, local businesses, elected officials and a host of individual supporters—have urged the New Mexico federal delegation to move forward to protect this landscape as a legislative National Conservation Area. Today, under the authority of the Antiquities Act, President Obama has made Rio Grande del Norte a protected landscape.

    On December 15, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Taos County and held a town hall event to seek input from a standing-room-only group of supporters that unanimously asked Salazar to recommend to President Obama that a Rio Grande del Norte National Monument be created.

    “This national monument designation will serve as a fitting legacy to retired Senator Jeff Bingaman, a champion for conservation in New Mexico,” Olivas said. “He introduced legislation to safeguard this area years ago, and worked diligently with his colleagues to move it through Congress.” Representative Ben Ray Luján and Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich backed Bingaman’s efforts through the years, in an attempt to preserve the land in its natural state. “We are grateful for the swift action of President Obama to allow us to pass down this land and our traditions to future generations.”

    Esther Garcia, president of San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant and mayor of the Village of Questa, said the preservation of traditional rights outlined in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is an important feature of the new monument. Mayor Garcia has also been invited to attend the White House ceremony next week.

    “Those of us with deep roots here appreciate that this designation will preserve grazing within the national monument area and specifically protects our right to hunt, fish and collect piñon nuts and firewood,” Garcia said. ”It will direct the Bureau of Land Management to protect the cultural, natural and scenic resources in the area, and protects rights granted under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Monument designation ensures that these ancestral lands will remain for future generations to use and enjoy.”

    Designation as a national monument is broadly backed by Taos County Commission, Taos Village Council, Taos Pueblo, Taos Chamber of Commerce, Taos Green Chamber, Taos Ski Valley, Village of Red River and more than 100 local businesses that recognize the importance monument designation has to local economies. Traditional users of the land such as hunters, fishermen, land grants, acequias, grazing permittees and tribal citizens all support President Obama’s historic move to protect the RGDN.

    The southern New Mexico community cheered the announcement that Rio Grande del Norte will be protected as a national monument designation, while also urging similar action for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County. Las Cruces Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Thomas pointed out that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region enjoys overwhelming support from local businesses, sportsmen, cultural organizations and local governments.

    “Thank you for announcing that the Rio Grande del Norte will soon become a national monument, President Obama. What Rio Grande del Norte is to northern New Mexico, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are to southern New Mexico,” Thomas said. “We hope you will also consider the same protection for southern New Mexico’s iconic Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, where unique Chihuahuan Desert wild lands possess rich American history including the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Apollo Space Mission training sites, and literally thousands of Native American cultural and archeological areas.”

    Timeline of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance’s involvement:

    2007: NM Wild staff member Jim O’Donnell starts work on the Rio Grande del Norte campaign.
    June 2007: Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signs letter of support for the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area.
    2008: NM Wild Traditional Community Organizer John Olivas begins working on the campaign. Olivas quickly gains support of the Northern New Mexico land grant community, which all starts in the living room of Esther Garcia.*
    June 2008: Land Grant of San Antonio del Rio Colorado signs a resolution of support.
    April 2009: Senator Bingaman introduces El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area legislation (co-sponsored by Senator Tom Udall)in the Senate on April 23, 2009,
    May 2009: Taos and Mora Valley chambers of commerce sign resolutions of support. Taos County Commission passes resolution of support.
    May 2010: Congressman Lujan introduces legislation for Rio Grande del Norte NCA and Wilderness (cosponsored by Representative Martin Heinrich) into the House of Representatives on May 18, 2010. .
    August 2010: NM Wild arranges for a flyover of the proposal area with media members from the Santa Fe New Mexican, a freelance writer, a member of NM Wild’s WOCLP** program and a Santa Fe County Commissioner. An additional flyover is conducted later that month and includes staff from Congressman Lujan and senators Bingaman and Udall, and Taos County elected officials.
    March 2011: New legislation is introduced into the 112th Congress
    May 2012: Taos County Commission passes an updated resolution of support.
    June 2012: Santa Fe City Council and Taos Ski Valley Inc. pass resolutions of support.
    December 2012: Rio Grande del Norte Grazing Permittees sign letter of support.
    January 2013: Pueblo of Taos signs resolution of support.

    Over 3,000 letters of support have been collected by NM Wild for RGDN.

    *Garcia is an 11th generation New Mexican who has been very active in the northern New Mexico community. She is the Chairwoman of the Board of San Antonio Del Rio Colorado Land Grant, and is Commissioner for the Cabresto Lake Irrigation Community Ditch Association and is very active with the New Mexico Acequia Association. She is currently the Mayor of Questa. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance would like to thank Garcia for all that she has done to support our efforts for Rio Grande del Norte.

    ** Olivas started the Wilderness Outdoor Connection Leadership Program (WOCLP) to work with youth in Mora and Questa in May 2008. The program began to help foster the next generation of conservation advocates in northern New Mexico. Students assisted in obtaining skills around grass roots organizing, working with federal delegation and their staff to create federal law and visited the campaign area, specifically Ute Mountain, Wild Rivers Recreation Area and the Rio Grande Gorge.

  • By By Matthew Brown And John Flesher
    June 07, 2013 

    BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday will propose lifting most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts but has been criticized by some scientists as premature.

    With more than 6,100 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told The Associated Press that a species persecuted to near-extermination last century has successfully rebounded.

    But prominent scientists and dozens of lawmakers in Congress want more. They say wolves need to be shielded so they can expand beyond the portions of 10 states they now occupy.

    The animal’s historical range stretched across most of North America.

    Government-sponsored trapping and poisoning left just one small pocket of wolves remaining, in northern Minnesota, by the time they received endangered species protections in 1974.

    In the past several years, after the Great Lakes population swelled and wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies, protections were lifted in states where the vast majority of the animals now live:

    Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and portions of Oregon, Washington and Utah.

    Under the administration’s plan, federal protections would remain only for a fledgling population of Mexican gray wolves in the desert Southwest. The proposal will be subject to a public comment period and a final decision made within a year.

    While the wolf’s recent resurgence is likely to continue at some level elsewhere — multiple packs roam portions of Washington and Oregon, and individual wolves have been spotted in Colorado, Utah and the Northeast — Ashe indicated it’s unrealistic to think the clock can be turned back entirely.

    “Science is an important part of this decision, but really the key is the policy question of when is a species recovered,” he said. “Does the wolf have to occupy all the habitat that is available to it in order for it to be recovered? Our answer to that question is no.”

    Hunters and trappers already are targeting the predators in states where protections previously were lifted. They’ve killed some 1,600 wolves in the past several years in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    That’s been a relief for ranchers who suffer regular wolf attacks that can kill dozens of livestock in a single night. Supporters say lifting protections elsewhere will help avoid the animosity seen among many ranchers in the West, who long complained that their hands were tied by rules restricting when wolves could be killed.

    Yet vast additional territory that researchers say is suitable for wolves remains unoccupied. That includes parts of the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and northern New England.

    Colorado alone has enough space to support up to 1,000 wolves, according to Carlos Carroll of California’s Klamath Center for Conservation Research. He suggested wildlife officials were bowing to political pressure, exerted by elected officials across the West who pushed to limit the wolf’s range.

    “They’ve tried to devise their political position first, and then cherry-pick their science to support it,” Carroll said of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    The Center for Biological Diversity on Friday vowed to challenge the government in court if it takes the animals off the endangered species list as planned.

    Ashe said Friday’s proposal had been reviewed by top administration officials, including new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. But he dismissed any claims of interference and said the work that went into the plan was exclusively that of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    He said the agency wants to focus future recovery efforts on a small number of wolves belonging to a subspecies, the Mexican gray wolf. Those occur in Arizona and New Mexico, where a protracted and costly reintroduction plan has stumbled in part due to illegal killings.

    The agency is calling for a tenfold increase in the territory where biologists are working to rebuild that population, which now numbers 73 animals. Law enforcement efforts to ward off poaching in the region would be bolstered.

    Although wolves roam only a small portion of their historical range, it’s about 80 percent of the area they realistically could be expected to occupy today, said David Mech, a leading wolf expert and senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Paul, Minn.

    The primary barrier to expansion isn’t lack of habitat or prey, but human intolerance, he said.

    “People are afraid. In some areas, they’re afraid to let their kids out to wait for the school bus in the morning. I don’t think that fear is going to dissipate,” he said.

    Even without federal protection, wolves are likely to migrate into several Western states, Mech said.

    Sections of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Northern California might have enough habitat, prey and isolation from humans for wolves to thrive, he said. But he added that might not happen if hunters kill so many Northern Rockies wolves that it reduces the number that would disperse from packs and seek new turf.

  • By By Matthew Brown And John Flesher
    June 07, 2013 

    BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday will propose lifting most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts but has been criticized by some scientists as premature.

    With more than 6,100 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told The Associated Press that a species persecuted to near-extermination last century has successfully rebounded.

    But prominent scientists and dozens of lawmakers in Congress want more. They say wolves need to be shielded so they can expand beyond the portions of 10 states they now occupy.

    The animal’s historical range stretched across most of North America.

    Government-sponsored trapping and poisoning left just one small pocket of wolves remaining, in northern Minnesota, by the time they received endangered species protections in 1974.

    In the past several years, after the Great Lakes population swelled and wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies, protections were lifted in states where the vast majority of the animals now live:

    Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and portions of Oregon, Washington and Utah.

    Under the administration’s plan, federal protections would remain only for a fledgling population of Mexican gray wolves in the desert Southwest. The proposal will be subject to a public comment period and a final decision made within a year.

    While the wolf’s recent resurgence is likely to continue at some level elsewhere — multiple packs roam portions of Washington and Oregon, and individual wolves have been spotted in Colorado, Utah and the Northeast — Ashe indicated it’s unrealistic to think the clock can be turned back entirely.

    “Science is an important part of this decision, but really the key is the policy question of when is a species recovered,” he said. “Does the wolf have to occupy all the habitat that is available to it in order for it to be recovered? Our answer to that question is no.”

    Hunters and trappers already are targeting the predators in states where protections previously were lifted. They’ve killed some 1,600 wolves in the past several years in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    That’s been a relief for ranchers who suffer regular wolf attacks that can kill dozens of livestock in a single night. Supporters say lifting protections elsewhere will help avoid the animosity seen among many ranchers in the West, who long complained that their hands were tied by rules restricting when wolves could be killed.

    Yet vast additional territory that researchers say is suitable for wolves remains unoccupied. That includes parts of the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and northern New England.

    Colorado alone has enough space to support up to 1,000 wolves, according to Carlos Carroll of California’s Klamath Center for Conservation Research. He suggested wildlife officials were bowing to political pressure, exerted by elected officials across the West who pushed to limit the wolf’s range.

    “They’ve tried to devise their political position first, and then cherry-pick their science to support it,” Carroll said of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    The Center for Biological Diversity on Friday vowed to challenge the government in court if it takes the animals off the endangered species list as planned.

    Ashe said Friday’s proposal had been reviewed by top administration officials, including new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. But he dismissed any claims of interference and said the work that went into the plan was exclusively that of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    He said the agency wants to focus future recovery efforts on a small number of wolves belonging to a subspecies, the Mexican gray wolf. Those occur in Arizona and New Mexico, where a protracted and costly reintroduction plan has stumbled in part due to illegal killings.

    The agency is calling for a tenfold increase in the territory where biologists are working to rebuild that population, which now numbers 73 animals. Law enforcement efforts to ward off poaching in the region would be bolstered.

    Although wolves roam only a small portion of their historical range, it’s about 80 percent of the area they realistically could be expected to occupy today, said David Mech, a leading wolf expert and senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Paul, Minn.

    The primary barrier to expansion isn’t lack of habitat or prey, but human intolerance, he said.

    “People are afraid. In some areas, they’re afraid to let their kids out to wait for the school bus in the morning. I don’t think that fear is going to dissipate,” he said.

    Even without federal protection, wolves are likely to migrate into several Western states, Mech said.

    Sections of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Northern California might have enough habitat, prey and isolation from humans for wolves to thrive, he said. But he added that might not happen if hunters kill so many Northern Rockies wolves that it reduces the number that would disperse from packs and seek new turf.

  • SANTA FE, NM—JULY 11, 2013–The Santa Fe National Forest will reopen portions of the forest beginning Friday, July 12th at 8:00 a.m.  The Forest will lift the full closure and move into Stage I fire restrictions.  However, some areas of the Forest will remain closed due to impacts by wildfires or potential for flooding.  “Areas of the forest affected by the Tres Lagunas, Thompson Ridge, and Jaroso fires will remain closed for public safety,” announced Deputy Forest Supervisor Joe Norrell.  Concern remains over possible flash flooding in many areas downslope from burned areas which requires additional recreation site (seasonal) closures during the monsoon season. Please reference the attached closure orders and corresponding maps which provide detailed information about what is open and closed on the Santa Fe National Forest.

    “Monsoonal moisture has minimized the risk of wildfire, although it has not totally eliminated it,” added Norrell, “We will maintain Stage I fire restrictions in all reopened areas. That means campfires are allowed only in developed campgrounds.”

    Portions of the Pecos Wilderness outside the Jaroso Fire closure will be open including the portion previously closed by the Carson National Forest—see attached map.  There are many trails that you can enjoy within the Wilderness and other areas of the forest that are not within the fire area.  However, we can’t stress enough the need for personal responsibility and safety when in the forest.  You must be fully aware of where you are, the weather conditions, and what areas are closed because of the fires and potential downslope flooding.

    The following areas will be closed year-round due to impacts from the Jaroso Fire:

    The boundary of the Jaroso Fire Closure area within the Pecos Wilderness is made up of following segments of trails that will be closed:

    • Cave Creek Trail 288 from the junction of the Dockweiler Trail 259 to the junction of Skyline Trail 251
    • Skyline Trail 251 to Horsethief Meadow Trail 253
    • Horsethief Meadow Trail 253 to Panchuela West Trail 243
    • Panchuela West Trail 243 to the Capulin Trail 158
    • Capulin Trail 158 to the Cienego Redondo Trail 6
    • Cienego RedondoTrail 6 to junction of Agua Sarca Trail 228
    • Agua Sarca Trail 228 to the Rio Molino Trail 227
    • Rio Molino Trail  227 to the Rio Medio
    • The Rio Medio is the boundary from the junction of Trail 227 to the junction of Trail 157

    Tres Lagunas Fire Closure Map

    Jarosa Fire Closure Map

  • For the 9th straight summer, 12 students from Dartmouth College are traveling across the nation in a biodiesel-powered Big Green Bus. An entirely student-run environmental advocacy group, the Bus stops in locations across the country to host events focused on facilitating discussion, sharing stories, and learning about sustainability. 

    The Big Green Bus will be in Las Cruces on Wednesday, July 17, for an event at the Southwest Environmental Center at 6 pm to join the community in a discussion about the future of the grasslands and wildlife of New Mexico’s Otero Mesa, and other important regional issues.

    The event will feature brief presentations by about why Otero Mesa is such a unique and special place biologically, its historic and current importance to the Mescalero Apaches, and how it is threatened and what individuals can do to protect it. Confirmed speakers include: Steve West, a biologist with the NM Wilderness Alliance; Styve Homnick, with Otero County Citizens for Otero Mesa; and Kevin Bixby, Executive Director of the SWEC. An informal discussion of Otero Mesa and other topics will follow, with everyone invited to participate, and with students from the Big Green Bus sharing the stories they’ve heard in other stops along their tour.

    Everybody is invited to this free event. Doors open at 6 pm, with light refreshments served, followed by presentations and discussion beginning at 6:30pm. For more information, call 575-522-5552.
    The Southwest Environmental Center works to protect and restore native wildlife and their habitats in the southwestern borderlands through advocacy, education and on-the-ground restoration projects. 

    Learn more at www.wildmesquite.org.

  • April Reese, E&E reporter
    Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013

    SANTA FE, N.M. — Several of the oil and gas leases sold at a Bureau of Land Management lease sale here yesterday fall under an almost 30-year-old management plan and therefore should have stayed on the shelf, critics say.

    At its quarterly lease sale, which included parcels in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, Red Dirt Energy LLC of Oklahoma City snagged leases for five parcels in southern New Mexico’s Otero County totaling 1,166 acres. Another seven that were originally on the list for the region were deferred because they are in an area that has wilderness characteristics, said Donna Hummel, a spokeswoman in BLM’s New Mexico office.

    Several environmental groups said the agency should not have leased the five Otero County parcels because they are managed under a resource management plan that dates back to 1986, before industry showed much interest in the area.

    BLM itself has acknowledged that the analysis in the 1986 White Sands RMP, which covers Otero and Sierra counties, is “insufficient for the management of the resource.” The agency crafted an amendment to the plan in 2004, but it was struck down by a federal court. In that 2009 decision, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the agency had failed to fully consider the potential environmental impacts of the proposal, including its effects on the Salt Basin aquifer.

    “To say we’re going to ignore our self-evaluation, it doesn’t make any sense,” said Trevor Kincaid of the Center for Western Priorities, a year-old Denver-based organization that advocates for a balance between energy development and conservation.

    “This is not our proudest moment in terms of resource management planning going back to ’86, but if you look at the flip side, until the new plan is completed, we do have to go back to the most recent plan,” Hummel said. “We don’t really have an option. We are obligated to use the most recent plan.”

    The five parcels in question were designated for mineral leasing in the 1986 plan, she added.

    And the parcels that were leased yesterday underwent a careful vetting process that included examination of the individual parcels by various resource specialists to make sure there wouldn’t be significant impacts to the water table, soils or wildlife if the leases are developed, Hummel added.

    “The reason they went forward was because we found no resource conflicts,” she said.

    Still, Kincaid questioned the wisdom of leasing parcels under such an antiquated plan.

    “It’s not a question of whether or not they’re allowed to; it’s a question of whether they should,” he said.

    Contested leases

    In April, BLM issued a draft RMP for Otero, Sierra and Dona Ana counties, but oil and gas development is not included in the plan. Instead, BLM says it will include oil and gas leasing and development in a separate amendment to be completed within five years.

    The next month, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society and other groups filed a protest over BLM’s offering of the original 12 parcels, saying no leases should be put on the auction block until an updated resource management plan that includes oil and gas leasing is in place.

    BLM has drawn criticism for offering parcels under outdated management plans in other states, as well, including at a lease sale in Montana on July 16 and recent sales in Colorado. But BLM officials say that they have an obligation to continue offering leases until new plans are finalized, particularly given how long the revision process takes.

    Oil and gas leases, which must be obtained to drill on federal lands, are awarded for a period of 10 years and “as long thereafter as there is production in paying quantities,” according to BLM. The revenue from the sale of the leases, as well as the 12.5 percent royalties collected from production on those lands, is shared between the federal government and the states, with 52 percent of the revenue going to the federal government and 48 percent going to the state where the leases are located.

    Over the past 10 years, New Mexico has received more than $4 billion from energy production on BLM-managed federal leases, which the state heavily relies on to fund public education.

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