The following is a joint press release submitted by NM BHA, NM Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited in support of legislation that would provide permanent wilderness protection in two areas within the Rio Grande dele Nort National Monument.
New Mexico hunters and anglers applaud action in the U.S. Senate today that would permanently protect two key areas on opposite sides of the recently established Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved an amended version of the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act (S. 241), sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.
Heinrich’s fellow committee members approved amendments Heinrich proposed to remove the provision in the bill that would have established a National Conservation Area (President Obama in March created the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument) but retained provisions to establish two new wilderness areas within the new monument – Cerro del Yuta Wilderness, comprising about 13,420 acres around Ute Mountain, and Rio San Antonio Wilderness, containing some 8,000 acres northwest of San Antonio Mountain. Only Congress has the ability to designate wilderness.
Both areas are currently designated as Wilderness Study Areas. By establishing them as officially designated wilderness, they would have the highest level of protection available for natural, historical and cultural resources. High quality hunting, fishing and other traditional uses would continue in both areas.
“The additional protections contained in this new legislation will finish the campaign to permanently protect the Rio Grande del Norte,” said Max Trujillo, sportsman organizer for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “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, public lands coordinator for Trout Unlimited in New Mexico, said the wilderness designation is crucial to protect Rio San Antonio Canyon and the trout stream that runs through it. “New Mexico’s coldwater fisheries need all the protection they can get and this bill will go a long way to ensuring that the Rio San Antonio remains clean and pure,” he said. “It also ensures that our thriving recreation-based economy will continue to create jobs for northern New Mexico.”
Oscar Simpson, chairman of the New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, also praised the legislation. “Undeveloped, unspoiled public lands like the Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio are where you can find some of the best hunting and fishing that New Mexico has to offer,” he said. “Wilderness designations like these are crucial. They protect critical habitat that our fish and wildlife need to thrive, as well as our most treasured places to hunt and fish.”
For a map of the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area, click here.