The following is a joint press release highlighting New Mexican sportsmen's support of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act.
Washington D.C. – New Mexican hunters and anglers continue to lead by example in the world of conservation with the introduction of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act.
The bill, introduced today by Senator Tom Udall, would designate the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Taos as a wilderness area. The designation would cover 46,000 acres of breathtaking country – prime territory for those who make a pastime out of backcountry pursuits.
“Hunting and fishing aren’t just hobbies for New Mexicans,” said Toner Mitchell, New Mexico Public Lands Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “They’re part of our culture. They’re part of our economy. They’re our identity. Protecting these prime tracts of untrammeled backcountry is an investment that pays off not just in dollars and cents, but also in maintaining who we are as a people.”
Oscar Simpson, co-chair for New Mexico Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has been hunting and fishing the area since the late 1950s.
"I fell in love with the area because of the incredible wildlife and scenic values that it offers,” he said. "We need to protect this area as wilderness for sportsmen that value the escape, challenge and overwhelming reward that hunting and fishing wild country like the Columbine Hondo provides."
The Columbine Hondo contains the headwaters for a number of coldwater streams that make prime habitat for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, New Mexico’s beautiful state fish. Prime cutthroat habitat requires abundant cold and clear water, which is critical as well for the quality of human life in northern New Mexico.
But the benefits of wilderness designation for Columbine Hondo go beyond its water resources. Hunters have harvested deer and elk from these mountains for generations. Users have gathered wood, grazed animals, and drawn spiritual succor from simply walking the trails and resting in the cool forest shade. These uses help provide the foundation of the tourism economy so critical in Northern New Mexico.
"Only through sound conservation of wild country can we preserve hunting and fishing opportunities for our kids,” said Marcos Herrera, educator, lifelong Taoseño and owner of the Taos Hunting Company. “Due to its rugged and wild characteristics, the Columbine Hondo simply produces higher quality and quantity of game animals than less primitive areas."
Max Trujillo of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation thanked Senator Udall for his continued efforts to protect our wild lands.
“Completing the process in making Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area into a permanent wilderness area is good for all of New Mexico,” he said. “The Columbine Hondo Wilderness offers some amazing opportunities for hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation, and its protection will ensure that these opportunities will be there forever.”