Prized northern NM hunting and fishing area one step closer to permanent protection

New Mexico hunters and anglers supported action today in the U. S. Senate that would benefit a prized hunting and fishing area in northern New Mexico. The Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining held a hearing on the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776) which would provide permanent protection for 45,000 acres of the Carson National Forest known as the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area. The area was designated as a Wilderness Study Area in 1981 and has been managed by the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness since that time.

“The Columbine-Hondo is prized by hunters locally and across the state,” said Toner Mitchell, New Mexico Public Lands Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “There is beauty and experiences beyond compare in those mountains, and the area deserves permanent wilderness designation.”

The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and was introduced following broad community support. Representatives Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham have introduced identical companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 1683).

“From the sportsman community’s perspective, wilderness protection means that hunters, anglers, campers and hikers will have another protected area that will remain unchanged for the rest of time,” said Max Trujillo, northern New Mexico Sportsman Organizer for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “This designation would guarantee that we can continue to enjoy and share the traditions that are a part of our lives and culture.”

The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area is home to healthy populations of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, black bear, Merriam’s turkey, blue grouse and many other species. The Rio Hondo and the Red River, two of the largest tributaries to the Rio Grande and home to Rio Grande cutthroat trout, brown trout and rainbow trout, both flow through the area. These two tributaries are also part of the traditional “acequia” systems that irrigate small farms in Taos, Questa, Taos Pueblo and other communities in the region.

“The hunting and fishing experiences that can be had in a wilderness area are very hard to compete with,” said Oscar Simpson, chair of the New Mexico Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Areas like the Columbine-Hondo are the best possible places to pass on our outdoor traditions to the next generation.”

For more information, contact:

Max Trujillo, NMWF Sportsman Organizer, (505) 617-1851

Toner Mitchell, NM Public Lands Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, (505) 231-8860

Oscar Simpson, NM Chapter Chair for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, (505) 345-0117

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