Located in Taos County just East of the recently-designated Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (242, 555 acres), is a section of wild country that has long been recognized by sportsmen for its high value hunting and fishing opportunities and wilderness characteristics – The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area. Click here or on the image for a full sized map of this area.
The area provides high quality habitat for Bear, Big Horn Sheep, Elk and Mule Deer. Rio Grande Cutthroat also inhabit some of the Columbine Hondo’s gin clear waters.
The following statement was provided by Oscar Simpson on behalf of NM BHA and Backcountry Horsemen of America to the NM Congressional Delegation at a meeting on 2/16/13, at Rivers & Birds facility in Arroyo Seco, NM.
The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area is a unique high alpine area that contains iconic vistas, critical aquatic and terrestrial habitat for native trout, big game and other alpine wildlife. Columbine contains critical watersheds that feed several streams which are used by local farmers and ranchers via acequias outside the area and eventually drain into the Rio Grande River – which in turn are used by municipalities for drinking water and downstream farmers.
The two organizations I represent support wilderness and cherish getting out and pursuing our recreational passions in a wild and natural environment - where nature prevails and solitude and tranquility refresh our souls. We want to ensure that our traditions of hunting, fishing, equestrian trail riding and the use of pack animals is preserved for present and future generations.
In 1980 Columbine was designated as a WSA to protect its wilderness values. Thirty plus years have passed – we feel it is time to permanently protect Columbine either through Congressional legislation or Monument designation if Congress does not act.
We also support protecting the adjacent Rio Grande del Norte NCA via legislation or Monument designation.
UPDATE: Since this article was posted, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to create the "Rio Grande del Norte National Monument." NM BHA appluaded habitat protection in the Rio Rio Grande National Monument in a recent press release. A map of the habitat protected through this desgination can be found here or on the BLM's official Rio Grande del Norte web page.
New Mexico Backcountry Hunters & Anglers proudly support a proposal to permanently protect critical big game habitat in the Rio Grande del Norte. Located in Northern New Mexico, the Rio Grande del Norte provides critical wintering habitat for a migratory elk herd that spends the warmer months in Colorado. The area is well-used by sportsmen and offers excellent elk and antelope hunting, fair deer hunting, as well as opportunities to pursue bear and cougar. As one of the first rivers in the country to be designated as a "Wild and Scenic", Northern stretches of the Rio Grande provides clean water and great trout fishing for anglers looking for waters off the beaten path.
The current proposal is for either a National Conservation Area or National Monument. Both proposals would protect prime backcountry habitat and hunting/fishing by keeping the area as it is right now - largely free from development, yet actively used by sportsmen, ranchers and tourists alike. Both proposals include small wilderness areas: San Antonio Wilderness in the Northwest corner and the Cerro de Yuta Wilderness in the Northeast. For a map of the proposed area, click here.
New Mexico Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is working in collaboration with other New Mexican sportsmen organizations and interests to reform the state game commission in a manner which better represents sportsmen. NM BHA Chair Oscar Simpson recently worked at the Bob Gerding Sport-show in Albuquerque and got over 700 letters of support for House Bill 439.
House Bill 439, sponsored by Rep. Tom Taylor of Farmington, would bring sensible and long-needed reforms to the State Game Commission. These reforms would shield the NM State Game Commission from political influence and would make the commission more professional and more responsive to the needs of New Mexico sportsmen, wildlife and habitat.