In recognition of the reintroduction of legislation which would protect critical big game habitat and wild fisheries within the Rio Grande del Norte, New Mexico BHA, Trout Unlimited and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation prepared the following press release applauding the call for permanent protection. For a PDF version of the press release, click here and for a news article on this topic in "Taos News", click here.
NM Sportsmen Applaud Congressional Delegation Support for Rio Grande del Norte
New bills from Rep. Luján, Sens. Udall and Heinrich call for permanent protection
Feb. 7, 2013
For immediate release
New Mexico hunters and anglers today announced their support for action taken by Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to reintroduce legislation to permanently protect the Rio Grande del Norte region near Taos.
The Rio Grande del Norte is a 236,000-acre parcel that stretches from the Colorado border to the Rio Grande Gorge west of Taos. The area is famed for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. Permanent protection would preserve traditional land uses while ensuring New Mexicans will be able to enjoy the land for generations to come.
Max Trujillo, sportsman organizer for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, the state’s leading sportsmen’s group, praised the reintroduction. “Our congressional leaders’ commitment to sportsmen and northern New Mexico is without question,” he said. “This proposal has overwhelming local support but unfortunately has been tied up in a Congress that had no interest in protecting public lands.”
Trujillo was referring to the previous Congress, which was the first since World War II to not protect a single acre of public land.
“It is unfortunate that some members of the U.S. House of Representatives don’t see the need to protect public land,” Trujillo continued. “The good news is that President Obama has the
power to designate Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument immediately, protecting not just these important lands but the waters that run through them.”
Such a development is seen as more likely in the wake of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s December listening event in Taos where he learned of the Taos community’s strong support for monument designation. The event was a standing-room-only crowd of northern New Mexicans including Hispanic leaders, tribal leaders, sportsmen and other recreationists, veterans and local business owners who would see a boom in tourism if Rio Grande del Norte becomes a national monument.
The president has the authority under the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments on public lands. Past presidents have used this authority to protect New Mexico icons such as White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Bandelier, Chaco Canyon and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.
Garrett VeneKlasen, Director of the Southwest Region of Trout Unlimited, said protection of the area is a top priority for sportsmen. “We support this legislation and our representatives who introduced it because it is the result of years of work by local stakeholders. We are pleased to see a strong show of support from New Mexico’s congressional delegation and eagerly await action. We as a diverse community have come together, we’ve done our homework, and have come up with a plan to keep this hunting and fishing paradise as it is now.”
Oscar Simpson, chairman of the New Mexico Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, also applauded the renewed effort to protect Rio Grande del Norte. “New Mexicans are calling for a national monument and Representative Ben Ray Lujan and Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are fighting for it. But the President can permanently protect this iconic piece of New Mexico now with a stroke of a pen,” said Simpson. “We are grateful for the leadership of our members of Congress, but we feel now is the time for President Obama to act and protect once and for all this incredible part of New Mexico.”
For more information, see www.RioGrandeDelNorte.org.