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New Mexico Wild Celebrates Introduction of Legislation to Establish New Wilderness Area in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Bill to designate over 13,000 acres as Cerro de la Olla Wilderness

ALBUQUERQUE (January 28, 2020) – New Mexico Wild today is celebrating legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would establish the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness Area within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico. The legislation would designate approximately 13,103 acres of land within the monument as new wilderness to be known as Cerro de la Olla – which loosely translates to “Pot Mountain” in English.

“From discovered prehistoric artifacts, we know that humans have visited and used Cerro de la Olla for thousands of years. Today, New Mexicans and others visit this rugged mountain to enjoy solitude and expansive vistas, to recreate, and to appreciate its natural splendor,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “This bill recognizes the importance of saving this special place for tomorrow’s visitors, human and wildlife alike, that they may have the same opportunities that we are fortunate enough to have today. Senators Heinrich and Udall know the value of ‘Pot Mountain’ personally, and so do we. We thank him for his continued foresight.”

“Cerro de la Olla towers over the Taos Plateau and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Much like Ute Mountain—protected as wilderness last year—Cerro de la Olla is also a shield volcano with upper elevations that offer solitude and unparalleled views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the East, the San Juan Mountains to the West, and the Rio Grande Gorge down below,” said Senator Martin Heinrich. “These mountains serve as an important wildlife corridor and provide security habitat for species such as elk, mule deer, black bears, and mountain lions. I’m proud to join the community to introduce legislation to designate Cerro de la Olla as wilderness to ensure this outdoor treasure is there for future generations.”

The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, a package of federal public lands legislation, which was signed into law in March 2019, included two new wilderness areas in Taos County: the Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Areas. New Mexico Wild and local stakeholders have been advocating to also permanently protect Cerro de la Olla as wilderness for years, but the legislation was unfortunately unable to make it into last year’s public lands package. The bill Senators Heinrich and Udall introduced today recognizes and corrects this omission.

The bill enjoys overwhelming community support, including from Taos County, Taos, Questa, Red River, Taos Pueblo, ranchers, sportsmen, veterans groups, and conservation organizations, among others.

The late community and conservation champion (and former New Mexico Wild board member) Esther Garcia, representing the San Antonio de Rio Colorado Land Grant, was a proponent and we think she would be especially pleased by the introduction of this bill. 

The full text of the legislation is available here.

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