2013

  • April Reese, E&E reporter
    Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    TAOS, N.M. — Sunday was one of those picture-perfect autumn days in northern New Mexico: clear, cool and bright. But aside from a few brightly colored kayaks, there were few signs of life in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, a scenic 74-mile sweep of river funneled through the 800-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge.

    Like the hundreds of other national monuments, parks and wildlife refuges around the country that have been closed since Oct. 1 by the government shutdown, Rio Grande del Norte’s 242,455 acres are, for the most part, off-limits to visitors.

    The parking lot at the Bureau of Land Management’s Taos field office has sat empty. Only federal law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency responders are allowed to stay on the job during the “funding lapse,” as BLM refers to it on its closure signs.

    The shutdown has quashed the plans of visitors who have come to see the monument from neighboring states and beyond. And local outfitters and other small businesses buoyed by an uptick in revenues since the monument was designated by President Obama in March are now worried about a potential reversal of fortune.

    A recent BLM study found visitation to the Rio Grande del Norte area has increased by 40 percent since the monument was established.

    “Having a monument designation has been wonderful for our business,” said Dan Irons, co-owner of Taos Mesa Brewing, which is just down the road from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a popular viewing spot in the monument. “This September compared to last September we’re running 40 percent higher. It seems like there’s a lot more energy in Taos now and a lot more hope for the future.”

    Many of Irons’ customers are also locals, and Taos Mesa Brewing has yet to see a dip in revenues due to the shutdown, he said. Other businesses that rely almost exclusively on monument-related tourism, such as outfitters, haven’t been so lucky.

    “These businesses already have few employees, they run very lean in their operations,” said Laura Sanchez, CEO of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce. “So when they’re faced with having to scale back, they have to make tough decisions about laying people off, and I think that’s a huge fear for people.”

    Suzie Benton, a senior rafting guide at Los Rios River Runners, said that although the company typically closes in late fall, this autumn was turning out to be one of its best ever due to recent rains that swelled the river. But the company is getting fewer customers now, she said.

    “I think we would have seen more calls without the government shutdown,” Benton said. “I think a lot of people think that we’re closed.”

    BLM didn’t cordon off all of the launches in the monument, but other facilities essential to a successful rafting trip are inaccessible, she added.

    “They called us the day of the shutdown to let us know they were leaving certain launches and takeouts open for us, which was really nice of them,” Benton said. “The bathrooms, however, are locked. That can be really inconvenient.”

    The company is making do with “groovers” — essentially large tin cans topped with toilet seats — named for the indentations they leave behind, she said.

    Other outfitters are still unsure about which parts of the monument are still open, and because the Taos BLM office is closed, there’s no one available to ask.

    “The campgrounds are closed, but is the river closed?” asked Chrissy Streit, who manages Taos Fly Shop, an outfitter that leads fishing trips in Rio Grande del Norte. “Some of the access sites don’t have any signs. We don’t know where we can go and where we can’t go.”

    Streit said her company is assuming that areas that are usually manned by employees or volunteers are off-limits and other access points are open.

    “I’m just trying to approach it with common sense,” Streit said. “Of course, there’s no one out there to enforce it either.”

  • April Reese, E&E reporter
    Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    TAOS, N.M. — Sunday was one of those picture-perfect autumn days in northern New Mexico: clear, cool and bright. But aside from a few brightly colored kayaks, there were few signs of life in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, a scenic 74-mile sweep of river funneled through the 800-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge.

    Like the hundreds of other national monuments, parks and wildlife refuges around the country that have been closed since Oct. 1 by the government shutdown, Rio Grande del Norte’s 242,455 acres are, for the most part, off-limits to visitors.

    The parking lot at the Bureau of Land Management’s Taos field office has sat empty. Only federal law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency responders are allowed to stay on the job during the “funding lapse,” as BLM refers to it on its closure signs.

    The shutdown has quashed the plans of visitors who have come to see the monument from neighboring states and beyond. And local outfitters and other small businesses buoyed by an uptick in revenues since the monument was designated by President Obama in March are now worried about a potential reversal of fortune.

    A recent BLM study found visitation to the Rio Grande del Norte area has increased by 40 percent since the monument was established.

    “Having a monument designation has been wonderful for our business,” said Dan Irons, co-owner of Taos Mesa Brewing, which is just down the road from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a popular viewing spot in the monument. “This September compared to last September we’re running 40 percent higher. It seems like there’s a lot more energy in Taos now and a lot more hope for the future.”

    Many of Irons’ customers are also locals, and Taos Mesa Brewing has yet to see a dip in revenues due to the shutdown, he said. Other businesses that rely almost exclusively on monument-related tourism, such as outfitters, haven’t been so lucky.

    “These businesses already have few employees, they run very lean in their operations,” said Laura Sanchez, CEO of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce. “So when they’re faced with having to scale back, they have to make tough decisions about laying people off, and I think that’s a huge fear for people.”

    Suzie Benton, a senior rafting guide at Los Rios River Runners, said that although the company typically closes in late fall, this autumn was turning out to be one of its best ever due to recent rains that swelled the river. But the company is getting fewer customers now, she said.

    “I think we would have seen more calls without the government shutdown,” Benton said. “I think a lot of people think that we’re closed.”

    BLM didn’t cordon off all of the launches in the monument, but other facilities essential to a successful rafting trip are inaccessible, she added.

    “They called us the day of the shutdown to let us know they were leaving certain launches and takeouts open for us, which was really nice of them,” Benton said. “The bathrooms, however, are locked. That can be really inconvenient.”

    The company is making do with “groovers” — essentially large tin cans topped with toilet seats — named for the indentations they leave behind, she said.

    Other outfitters are still unsure about which parts of the monument are still open, and because the Taos BLM office is closed, there’s no one available to ask.

    “The campgrounds are closed, but is the river closed?” asked Chrissy Streit, who manages Taos Fly Shop, an outfitter that leads fishing trips in Rio Grande del Norte. “Some of the access sites don’t have any signs. We don’t know where we can go and where we can’t go.”

    Streit said her company is assuming that areas that are usually manned by employees or volunteers are off-limits and other access points are open.

    “I’m just trying to approach it with common sense,” Streit said. “Of course, there’s no one out there to enforce it either.”

  • High Country News

    Ben Long | Jan 14, 2013
     

    Conservation is about balance: balancing the wants of today with the needs of tomorrow; balancing freedom with responsibility; balancing human’s power to harness nature, with respecting nature’s force and wisdom.

    Last week, the Center for American Progress pointed out in a report one place where the Obama Administration is out of balance: protecting the best, most valuable corners of America’s public domain.

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    When it comes to protecting the great outdoors, Obama currently lags far behind President Bush I, Bush II and Ronald Reagan.  Of course, Obama has been paired with a particularly dysfunctional Congress that can’t seem to pass water, let alone legislation.

    The 112th Congress, which just ended, was the first since 1966 that designated no new wilderness areas. There are many wonderful and threatened places around the country that deserve the honor and have strong local support.

    At the same time, the Obama Administration has been setting records for oil and gas development on America’s public lands.

    A great place for Obama to begin correcting this imbalance is in New Mexico, with the Rio Grande del Norte.  I was in New Mexico in the fall, working with some folks who love to hunt elk and mule deer and fish for trout in this region.

    The land is impressive on its own – vast sagebrush plateaus, framed by ancient volcanic cinder cones and cleft by the narrow whitewater canyon of the Rio Grande. I was equally impressed by the broad swath of support from New Mexicans coming together to conserve this special place – not lock it up under glass, but to make sure it remains special and available for people to use and enjoy long into the future.

    New Mexicans have drawn up a balanced, visionary proposal that would conserve about 250,000 acres of the Rio Grande del Norte. If Congress is too lost in Beltway politics to listen to the people, Obama should perk up his famous ears and act toward the future.

    Image: The Rio Grande country of northern New Mexico is a mix of canyon, plateau and extinct volcanoes, with some of the best people you’ve ever met. Credit Conservation Lands Foundation.

    Ben Long is an author, outdoors and conservationist in Kalispell, Mont. He is senior program director at Resource Media.

  • 2015 10 14 14 41 54

  • Public News Service-NM: January 9, 2013

    Listen to this radio Ad, which urges President Obama to help safeguard the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte.

    “Our Native American heritage should be protected for our children and grandchildren. That’s why the All Indian Pueblo Council and others celebrated President Obama’s protection of Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. We should also protect New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte, near the Taos Pueblo, and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region, near the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, to safeguard our land, air, water and heritage. Thank you, President Obama, for hearing our concerns and preserving our culture. Paid for by the National Tribal Environmental Council.”

    Listen to the streaming audio:

    Or Download the mp3

     

     

  • Public News Service-NM: January 9, 2013

    Listen to this radio Ad, which urges President Obama to help safeguard the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte.

    “Our Native American heritage should be protected for our children and grandchildren. That’s why the All Indian Pueblo Council and others celebrated President Obama’s protection of Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. We should also protect New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte, near the Taos Pueblo, and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region, near the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, to safeguard our land, air, water and heritage. Thank you, President Obama, for hearing our concerns and preserving our culture. Paid for by the National Tribal Environmental Council.”

    Listen to the streaming audio:

    Or Download the mp3

     

  • Public News Service-NM: January 9, 2013

    Listen to this radio Ad, which urges President Obama to help safeguard the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte.

    “Our Native American heritage should be protected for our children and grandchildren. That’s why the All Indian Pueblo Council and others celebrated President Obama’s protection of Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. We should also protect New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte, near the Taos Pueblo, and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region, near the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, to safeguard our land, air, water and heritage. Thank you, President Obama, for hearing our concerns and preserving our culture. Paid for by the National Tribal Environmental Council.”

    Listen to the streaming audio:

    Or Download the mp3

     

     

  • James McWilliams, Contributor
    Forbes.com
    11/05/2013

    If the October headlines were any indication, the quickest way for a wolf to make the news is to get shot. The Jackson Hole News and Guide reported the story of a Wyoming hunter who bagged a wolf, strapped him atop his SUV, and paraded his trophy through Town Square. A Montana landowner shot what he thought was a wolf (it turned out to be a dog hybrid) amid concerns that the beast was harassing house cats. The Ecologist speculated that hunters were chasing wolves from Oregon, where hunting them is illegal, into Idaho, where it’s not, before delivering fatal doses of “lead poisoning.”

    Predictably, these cases raise the hackles of animal right advocates and conservationists alike. Both groups typically view hunting wolves as a fundamental threat to a wolf population that, after a history of near extermination, is struggling to survive reintegration into the Northern Rockies. According to Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, “Hunting is now taking a significant toll on wolf populations.”

    While the anger directed toward irresponsible wolf hunters makes perfect sense, it should not obscure the essential reason for the wolf wars in the first place: livestock. Michael Wise, a history professor at the University of North Texas and the author of a forthcoming book on wolves on the Canadian border, says that “The challenge of wolf recovery is reintegrating the animals within a region that was transformed by industrial agriculture during the carnivore’s sixty-year absence.” Protecting migration corridors, expanding habitats, and fostering genetic diversity are integral to this goal. But, as Wise notes, “Opposing the wolf hunts does not address these larger issues.”

    Understanding what would address these larger issues requires momentarily looking backward. Historically speaking, wolves got the shaft. When Lewis and Clark explored the American west at the dawn of the nineteenth century, thousands of wolves thrived across the Northern Rockies. Lewis admiringly called them “the shepherds of the buffalo.”

    But the systemic destruction and commodification of their natural prey–including the buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep–as well as the subsequent replacement of wild animals with domesticated livestock, effectively transformed wolves–who wasted no time attacking helpless livestock–from innocent wildlife into guilty predators. Federally sponsored extermination programs–which included the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey (later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) hiring hunters to kill wolves en masse–succeeded so well that wolf numbers dropped to virtually nil by 1930. In such ways was the West won. (A similar battle continues, to an extent, in the attempt to remove wild horses today).

    Six decades later, buffeted by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the emergence of a modern environmental movement, conservationists were working diligently to restore wolves to their former climes. But the livestock industry had, throughout the century, radically altered the old terrain, not to mention the rules governing it. Twentieth-century grazing practices denatured the wolf’s traditional habitat, reducing the landscape to ruins while securing ranchers’ presumed right to continue exploiting the wild west for tame animals. Michael Robinson, noting that the process of land degradation began in the nineteenth century, puts it this way: ”the west was picked clean of anything of value.”

    Cattle had indeed wrecked havoc. They destroyed watersheds, trampled riparian vegetation, and turned grasslands to hardpan, triggering severe erosion. To top it off, the livestock industry spent the twentieth century securing cheap access to public lands through thousands of grazing permits now granted by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Today, ranchers enjoy tax-supported access to 270 million acres of public land. Seventy-three percent of publicly-owned land in the west is currently grazed by privately owned livestock. Some of that grazing might be done responsibly. Most of it, according to the BLM itself, is definitely not.

    No matter what the quality of prevailing grazing practices, one thing remains the same as it did a century ago: ranchers have a clear incentive to kill wolves. As environmental groups worked to form a united front in support of wolf reintegration in the mid-1990s, anti-wolf advocates articulated their opinions with vicious clarity. Hank Fischer, author of Wolf Wars and an advocate of wolf reintroduction, recalled the arguments he confronted as he pushed the pro-wolf agenda in Montana. “The Wolf is the Saddam Hussein of the Animal World,” read the placard of one protester. “How Would You Like to Have Your Ass Eaten by a Wolf?,” asked another.

    Politically sanctioned release of pent-up vituperation against wolves came in 2012. It was then when gray wolves were completely removed from endangered species lists. Hunting season commenced with a bang in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Recreational hunters and ranchers–not to mention the federal Wildlife Services–have since shot hundreds of wolves that ostensibly posed a threat to livestock. At times, such as last week, hunts have evinced grotesque, vigilante-like displays. According to James William Gibson, writing in The Earth Island Journal, “The Northern Rockies have become an unsupervised playpen for reactionaries to act out warrior fantasies against demonic wolves, coastal elites, and idiotic environmentalists.”

    Fortunately, as the debate over wolf hunting rages, cooler heads are trying to prevail. Camilla Fox , Executive Director of Project Coyote, an organization dedicated to the peaceful coexistence of humans and animals, advocates policies that promote, in her words, “predator conservation and stewardship.”

    Working closely with ranchers, she encourages them to have “tolerance and acceptance of wolves on the landscape.” She highlights several non-lethal methods of management, including using guard animals (such as Great Pyrenees and llamas) to deter wolves and coyotes from attacking livestock, better fencing, range-riders, fladry (flags that whip and flap in the wind), and grazing allotment buyouts, a solution that allows private parties to pay ranchers to relinquish their grazing permits. Project Coyote’s work has already had a dramatically successful impact on resolving conflicts between sheep owners and coyotes in Marin County, California.

    Whatever techniques are eventually used to keep wolves off the headlines and in the wilderness, critics of wolf hunting should not lose sight of the fact that, while hunters are an easy (and perhaps legitimate) target for their ire, a lead poisoned wolf in 2013 is ultimately the victim of a century of disastrous decisions regarding land use–specifically, the use of livestock on the landscape. Eliminating grazing permits for western cattle ranchers would negatively impact no more than 10 percent of the beef industry in the United States. Ten percent! Seems a modest tonnage of flesh to sacrifice in order to save a species that symbolizes the beautiful essence of a landscape we have lost.

    As Camilla Fox notes, “they do a lot better when we leave them alone.”

  • James McWilliams, Contributor
    Forbes.com
    11/05/2013

    If the October headlines were any indication, the quickest way for a wolf to make the news is to get shot. The Jackson Hole News and Guide reported the story of a Wyoming hunter who bagged a wolf, strapped him atop his SUV, and paraded his trophy through Town Square. A Montana landowner shot what he thought was a wolf (it turned out to be a dog hybrid) amid concerns that the beast was harassing house cats. The Ecologist speculated that hunters were chasing wolves from Oregon, where hunting them is illegal, into Idaho, where it’s not, before delivering fatal doses of “lead poisoning.”

    Predictably, these cases raise the hackles of animal right advocates and conservationists alike. Both groups typically view hunting wolves as a fundamental threat to a wolf population that, after a history of near extermination, is struggling to survive reintegration into the Northern Rockies. According to Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, “Hunting is now taking a significant toll on wolf populations.”

    While the anger directed toward irresponsible wolf hunters makes perfect sense, it should not obscure the essential reason for the wolf wars in the first place: livestock. Michael Wise, a history professor at the University of North Texas and the author of a forthcoming book on wolves on the Canadian border, says that “The challenge of wolf recovery is reintegrating the animals within a region that was transformed by industrial agriculture during the carnivore’s sixty-year absence.” Protecting migration corridors, expanding habitats, and fostering genetic diversity are integral to this goal. But, as Wise notes, “Opposing the wolf hunts does not address these larger issues.”

    Understanding what would address these larger issues requires momentarily looking backward. Historically speaking, wolves got the shaft. When Lewis and Clark explored the American west at the dawn of the nineteenth century, thousands of wolves thrived across the Northern Rockies. Lewis admiringly called them “the shepherds of the buffalo.”

    But the systemic destruction and commodification of their natural prey–including the buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep–as well as the subsequent replacement of wild animals with domesticated livestock, effectively transformed wolves–who wasted no time attacking helpless livestock–from innocent wildlife into guilty predators. Federally sponsored extermination programs–which included the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey (later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) hiring hunters to kill wolves en masse–succeeded so well that wolf numbers dropped to virtually nil by 1930. In such ways was the West won. (A similar battle continues, to an extent, in the attempt to remove wild horses today).

    Six decades later, buffeted by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the emergence of a modern environmental movement, conservationists were working diligently to restore wolves to their former climes. But the livestock industry had, throughout the century, radically altered the old terrain, not to mention the rules governing it. Twentieth-century grazing practices denatured the wolf’s traditional habitat, reducing the landscape to ruins while securing ranchers’ presumed right to continue exploiting the wild west for tame animals. Michael Robinson, noting that the process of land degradation began in the nineteenth century, puts it this way: ”the west was picked clean of anything of value.”

    Cattle had indeed wrecked havoc. They destroyed watersheds, trampled riparian vegetation, and turned grasslands to hardpan, triggering severe erosion. To top it off, the livestock industry spent the twentieth century securing cheap access to public lands through thousands of grazing permits now granted by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Today, ranchers enjoy tax-supported access to 270 million acres of public land. Seventy-three percent of publicly-owned land in the west is currently grazed by privately owned livestock. Some of that grazing might be done responsibly. Most of it, according to the BLM itself, is definitely not.

    No matter what the quality of prevailing grazing practices, one thing remains the same as it did a century ago: ranchers have a clear incentive to kill wolves. As environmental groups worked to form a united front in support of wolf reintegration in the mid-1990s, anti-wolf advocates articulated their opinions with vicious clarity. Hank Fischer, author of Wolf Wars and an advocate of wolf reintroduction, recalled the arguments he confronted as he pushed the pro-wolf agenda in Montana. “The Wolf is the Saddam Hussein of the Animal World,” read the placard of one protester. “How Would You Like to Have Your Ass Eaten by a Wolf?,” asked another.

    Politically sanctioned release of pent-up vituperation against wolves came in 2012. It was then when gray wolves were completely removed from endangered species lists. Hunting season commenced with a bang in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Recreational hunters and ranchers–not to mention the federal Wildlife Services–have since shot hundreds of wolves that ostensibly posed a threat to livestock. At times, such as last week, hunts have evinced grotesque, vigilante-like displays. According to James William Gibson, writing in The Earth Island Journal, “The Northern Rockies have become an unsupervised playpen for reactionaries to act out warrior fantasies against demonic wolves, coastal elites, and idiotic environmentalists.”

    Fortunately, as the debate over wolf hunting rages, cooler heads are trying to prevail. Camilla Fox , Executive Director of Project Coyote, an organization dedicated to the peaceful coexistence of humans and animals, advocates policies that promote, in her words, “predator conservation and stewardship.”

    Working closely with ranchers, she encourages them to have “tolerance and acceptance of wolves on the landscape.” She highlights several non-lethal methods of management, including using guard animals (such as Great Pyrenees and llamas) to deter wolves and coyotes from attacking livestock, better fencing, range-riders, fladry (flags that whip and flap in the wind), and grazing allotment buyouts, a solution that allows private parties to pay ranchers to relinquish their grazing permits. Project Coyote’s work has already had a dramatically successful impact on resolving conflicts between sheep owners and coyotes in Marin County, California.

    Whatever techniques are eventually used to keep wolves off the headlines and in the wilderness, critics of wolf hunting should not lose sight of the fact that, while hunters are an easy (and perhaps legitimate) target for their ire, a lead poisoned wolf in 2013 is ultimately the victim of a century of disastrous decisions regarding land use–specifically, the use of livestock on the landscape. Eliminating grazing permits for western cattle ranchers would negatively impact no more than 10 percent of the beef industry in the United States. Ten percent! Seems a modest tonnage of flesh to sacrifice in order to save a species that symbolizes the beautiful essence of a landscape we have lost.

    As Camilla Fox notes, “they do a lot better when we leave them alone.”

  • Max O. Trujillo II in the Santa Fe New Mexican
    June 1, 2013

    I am a native New Mexican, and I have been fortunate enough to traverse over much of our state’s wilderness areas while hunting, fishing and hiking. I have also hunted, fished and hiked on state trust land, Bureau of Land Management land, park service land and national forest land.

    My experiences are great in all the aforementioned places, but my experiences in our wilderness areas stand out above the rest by a long shot. There are sights, smells, views and sounds in a wilderness that have no comparison. The wildlife even acts differently in a wilderness. Where else can you go and handfeed a wild bighorn sheep, or have a Rocky Mountain mockingbird land on your lap while resting during a hunt?

    Wilderness areas are extremely important to our sports of hunting and fishing. In Northern New Mexico, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition is one such area. Thanks to strong community support and involvement by our Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, and Congressman Ben Ray Luján, legislation was recently introduced to permanently designate the area as wilderness.

    The area consists of about 45,000 acres of pristine country located between two existing wilderness areas near Questa and Red River. The act to designate the Columbine Hondo Wilderness would create contiguous portions of wilderness in the area and would provide increased opportunities for hunters and anglers to experience the true wilderness. As an a avid hunter and angler and a representative of the oldest and largest sportsmen’s organization in New Mexico, I can say that on behalf of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, we support the communities that will benefit greatly from the designation. We thank our senators and members of Congress who have brought the Columbine Hondo Wilderness legislation to the table.

    Since 1980, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area has been managed as wilderness, so the way the area is managed will not change by a designation to permanent wilderness. Conversely, the designation will make 45,000 acres of beautiful country to hunt and fish on a permanent reality for us. It also will remain a place for traditional users of this land to continue to graze their animals, collect medicinal herbs and keep the fabric of our culture intact while having access in perpetuity to a place that is as wild as wild can be.

    Max O. Trujillo II is a sportsman coordinator for Northern New Mexico New Mexico Wildlife Federation and lives in Las Vegas, N.M.

  • Max O. Trujillo II in the Santa Fe New Mexican
    June 1, 2013

    I am a native New Mexican, and I have been fortunate enough to traverse over much of our state’s wilderness areas while hunting, fishing and hiking. I have also hunted, fished and hiked on state trust land, Bureau of Land Management land, park service land and national forest land.

    My experiences are great in all the aforementioned places, but my experiences in our wilderness areas stand out above the rest by a long shot. There are sights, smells, views and sounds in a wilderness that have no comparison. The wildlife even acts differently in a wilderness. Where else can you go and handfeed a wild bighorn sheep, or have a Rocky Mountain mockingbird land on your lap while resting during a hunt?

    Wilderness areas are extremely important to our sports of hunting and fishing. In Northern New Mexico, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition is one such area. Thanks to strong community support and involvement by our Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, and Congressman Ben Ray Luján, legislation was recently introduced to permanently designate the area as wilderness.

    The area consists of about 45,000 acres of pristine country located between two existing wilderness areas near Questa and Red River. The act to designate the Columbine Hondo Wilderness would create contiguous portions of wilderness in the area and would provide increased opportunities for hunters and anglers to experience the true wilderness. As an a avid hunter and angler and a representative of the oldest and largest sportsmen’s organization in New Mexico, I can say that on behalf of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, we support the communities that will benefit greatly from the designation. We thank our senators and members of Congress who have brought the Columbine Hondo Wilderness legislation to the table.

    Since 1980, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area has been managed as wilderness, so the way the area is managed will not change by a designation to permanent wilderness. Conversely, the designation will make 45,000 acres of beautiful country to hunt and fish on a permanent reality for us. It also will remain a place for traditional users of this land to continue to graze their animals, collect medicinal herbs and keep the fabric of our culture intact while having access in perpetuity to a place that is as wild as wild can be.

    Max O. Trujillo II is a sportsman coordinator for Northern New Mexico New Mexico Wildlife Federation and lives in Las Vegas, N.M.

  • By Ralph Arellanes
    Published July 11, 2013
    Fox News Latino

    According to press reports, when White House Chief Domestic Policy Advisor Cecilia Muñoz first got to Washington, D.C., 25 years ago, her job was “Latinos 101 – ‘here’s who we are, etc.’” Today, I hope she counts among her many accomplishments her role in championing the community-led efforts that resulted in President Obama protecting the César E. Chávez National Monument in California in 2012 and New Mexico’s breathtaking Rio Grande del Norte National Monument earlier this year.

    The national League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) this past weekend unanimously approved a resolution thanking President Obama for protecting both national monuments so that these places and stories can inspire generations to come. 

    The national resolution comes on the heels of one passed by New Mexican members of LULAC. In May, we joined with the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico to approve identical resolutions that celebrate these steps toward acknowledging the contributions of Hispanos and Latinos in U.S. history.

    But like the national membership of LULAC, we too, called on the White House to consider protecting additional sites that interpret and preserve rich cultural traditions of American Latinos. Despite the best efforts of Ms. Muñoz and so many others, we still need to say “here’s who we are.”

    César E. Chávez was a labor and civil rights leader whose efforts in the farm worker movement helped build a foundation for workers’ rights in the United States, not only for American Latinos — but all Americans. Located in Keene, California, this monument protects Chávez’s home and gravesite as well as the headquarters of United Farm Workers of America, better known as Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz.

    The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument protects 242,555 acres of public lands northwest of Taos. The region has been deeply tied to Hispanic culture for centuries. The monument recognizes and protects traditional Hispano uses of the land, including hunting, grazing, and the gathering of firewood and piñon nuts.

    Of course, these two sites alone do not encompass the diverse Hispano and Latino-American story. As scholar Dr. Stephen J. Pitti wrote in the National Park Service-commissioned report, American Latinos and the Making of the United States: A Theme Study: “Deeply embedded in economic and political life across many decades, Latinos have played instrumental roles in the development of the U.S., and public recognition of the Latino past is long overdue.”

    Here in New Mexico, we point to the Organ Mountains Desert-Peaks near Las Cruces as an opportunity to further recognize American Latino’s cultural contributions to our nation. Local elected officials, small business owners, veterans, sportsmen, Native American tribes, the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, and LULAC-NM are all calling for its protection as a national monument to preserve its historic significance. 

    People traveling El Camino Real from Chihuahua to Santa Fe passed through here. The mid-1800s war and boundary disputes with Mexico were fought and resolved here. Many Hispano families trace their roots to this region and its colorful history.

    It is our responsibility now to protect that history for the next generation. The president has been challenged to protect as many acres of public lands as he leases for oil and gas development — an issue we know well in New Mexico. Protecting our Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks would be another step toward achieving that balance between developing our energy resources and conserving our great outdoors. We hope that the president takes additional steps forward to honor our Latino heritage and shows our grandchildren, “here’s who we are.”

    Ralph Arellanes is the New Mexico State Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

  • By Ralph Arellanes
    Published July 11, 2013
    Fox News Latino

    According to press reports, when White House Chief Domestic Policy Advisor Cecilia Muñoz first got to Washington, D.C., 25 years ago, her job was “Latinos 101 – ‘here’s who we are, etc.’” Today, I hope she counts among her many accomplishments her role in championing the community-led efforts that resulted in President Obama protecting the César E. Chávez National Monument in California in 2012 and New Mexico’s breathtaking Rio Grande del Norte National Monument earlier this year.

    The national League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) this past weekend unanimously approved a resolution thanking President Obama for protecting both national monuments so that these places and stories can inspire generations to come. 

    The national resolution comes on the heels of one passed by New Mexican members of LULAC. In May, we joined with the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico to approve identical resolutions that celebrate these steps toward acknowledging the contributions of Hispanos and Latinos in U.S. history.

    But like the national membership of LULAC, we too, called on the White House to consider protecting additional sites that interpret and preserve rich cultural traditions of American Latinos. Despite the best efforts of Ms. Muñoz and so many others, we still need to say “here’s who we are.”

    César E. Chávez was a labor and civil rights leader whose efforts in the farm worker movement helped build a foundation for workers’ rights in the United States, not only for American Latinos — but all Americans. Located in Keene, California, this monument protects Chávez’s home and gravesite as well as the headquarters of United Farm Workers of America, better known as Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz.

    The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument protects 242,555 acres of public lands northwest of Taos. The region has been deeply tied to Hispanic culture for centuries. The monument recognizes and protects traditional Hispano uses of the land, including hunting, grazing, and the gathering of firewood and piñon nuts.

    Of course, these two sites alone do not encompass the diverse Hispano and Latino-American story. As scholar Dr. Stephen J. Pitti wrote in the National Park Service-commissioned report, American Latinos and the Making of the United States: A Theme Study: “Deeply embedded in economic and political life across many decades, Latinos have played instrumental roles in the development of the U.S., and public recognition of the Latino past is long overdue.”

    Here in New Mexico, we point to the Organ Mountains Desert-Peaks near Las Cruces as an opportunity to further recognize American Latino’s cultural contributions to our nation. Local elected officials, small business owners, veterans, sportsmen, Native American tribes, the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, and LULAC-NM are all calling for its protection as a national monument to preserve its historic significance. 

    People traveling El Camino Real from Chihuahua to Santa Fe passed through here. The mid-1800s war and boundary disputes with Mexico were fought and resolved here. Many Hispano families trace their roots to this region and its colorful history.

    It is our responsibility now to protect that history for the next generation. The president has been challenged to protect as many acres of public lands as he leases for oil and gas development — an issue we know well in New Mexico. Protecting our Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks would be another step toward achieving that balance between developing our energy resources and conserving our great outdoors. We hope that the president takes additional steps forward to honor our Latino heritage and shows our grandchildren, “here’s who we are.”

    Ralph Arellanes is the New Mexico State Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

  • For Immediate Release
    December 12, 2013

    Contact:
    Jeff Steinborn, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 575-635-5615

    NM Wild applauds Senators Heinrich and Udall for introducing bill that would protect 500,000 acres in Doña Ana County

    LAS CRUCES, NM (December 12, 2013) – The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) and its 5,000 members applauded U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act. The legislation would protect 500,000 acres of culturally and ecologically rich Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Doña Ana County.

    “New Mexico is fortunate to have two senators with such vision and commitment to permanently protecting these very special places,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild. “The breadth of community support for this legislation is truly inspiring and NM Wild is proud to stand with hunters, faith-based groups, youth organizations, area businesses and our conservation partners to make sure this land secures the protection it deserves. NM Wild and our 5,000 members thank Senators Udall and Heinrich, and stands ready to assist them in any way we can.”

    The national monument would include the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and Greater Potrillo Mountains. Among the wildlife that call this their home are golden eagles, many hawk species, owls, desert mule deer, three quail species, mountain lion, pronghorn, javelina, bobcat, coyote, bats, rock squirrels and other rodents, and numerous other birds.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is not just important for its biological features—it also contains important archaeological, geological, and historical sites. Places like Conklin’s Cave in the Organ Mountains and Shelter Cave in the Robledo Mountains have yielded artifacts dating the area’s human history back more than 8,000 years. Archaic petroglyphs in areas like Providence Cone and parts of the Sierra de Las Uvas are tantalizing signs of likely habitation sites that, if properly and respectfully studied, could open new windows into the movements of ancient cultures that called these areas home.

    The national monument is broadly backed by the local community—in a recent survey, more than 80 percent of people said they support the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proposal.

    “On the precipice of permanent protection, the community-supported Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument enjoys exciting momentum because of diverse supporters, creative partnerships and its intersection of natural and cultural landscapes,” said Nathan Small, NM Wild wilderness protection coordinator.

    Last year, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the 242,455-acre Rio Grande del Norte in Taos County as a National Monument. After more than seven years of working on the campaign, NM Wild is thankful to former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, congressmen Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, and President Obama for their work on the permanent protection of Rio Grande del Norte. NM Wild is also hopeful for a similar fate for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    “As we celebrate the introduction of this legislation, we invite Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel to visit this land and to walk, see and experience it personally,” said Allison. “We’re confident that she’ll immediately understand why these places need to be protected for future generations.”

    For more information about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks campaign, please visit www.organmountains.org.

    ###
    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.

  • For Immediate Release

    MikeGroves attribution Organs 640x256

    Contact:
    Jeff Steinborn, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 575-635-5615

    NM Wild applauds Senators Heinrich and Udall for introducing bill that would protect 500,000 acres in Doña Ana County

    LAS CRUCES, NM (December 12, 2013) – The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) and its 5,000 members applauded U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act. The legislation would protect 500,000 acres of culturally and ecologically rich Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Doña Ana County.

    “New Mexico is fortunate to have two senators with such vision and commitment to permanently protecting these very special places,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild. “The breadth of community support for this legislation is truly inspiring and NM Wild is proud to stand with hunters, faith-based groups, youth organizations, area businesses and our conservation partners to make sure this land secures the protection it deserves. NM Wild and our 5,000 members thank Senators Udall and Heinrich, and stands ready to assist them in any way we can.”

    The national monument would include the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and Greater Potrillo Mountains. Among the wildlife that call this their home are golden eagles, many hawk species, owls, desert mule deer, three quail species, mountain lion, pronghorn, javelina, bobcat, coyote, bats, rock squirrels and other rodents, and numerous other birds.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is not just important for its biological features—it also contains important archaeological, geological, and historical sites. Places like Conklin’s Cave in the Organ Mountains and Shelter Cave in the Robledo Mountains have yielded artifacts dating the area’s human history back more than 8,000 years. Archaic petroglyphs in areas like Providence Cone and parts of the Sierra de Las Uvas are tantalizing signs of likely habitation sites that, if properly and respectfully studied, could open new windows into the movements of ancient cultures that called these areas home.

    The national monument is broadly backed by the local community—in a recent survey, more than 80 percent of people said they support the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proposal.

    “On the precipice of permanent protection, the community-supported Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument enjoys exciting momentum because of diverse supporters, creative partnerships and its intersection of natural and cultural landscapes,” said Nathan Small, NM Wild wilderness protection coordinator.

    Last year, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the 242,455-acre Rio Grande del Norte in Taos County as a National Monument. After more than seven years of working on the campaign, NM Wild is thankful to former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, congressmen Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, and President Obama for their work on the permanent protection of Rio Grande del Norte. NM Wild is also hopeful for a similar fate for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    “As we celebrate the introduction of this legislation, we invite Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel to visit this land and to walk, see and experience it personally,” said Allison. “We’re confident that she’ll immediately understand why these places need to be protected for future generations.”

    For more information about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks campaign, please visit www.organmountains.org.

    ###
    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.

  • For Immediate Release
    December 12, 2013

    Contact:
    Jeff Steinborn, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 575-635-5615

    NM Wild applauds Senators Heinrich and Udall for introducing bill that would protect 500,000 acres in Doña Ana County

    LAS CRUCES, NM (December 12, 2013) – The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) and its 5,000 members applauded U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act. The legislation would protect 500,000 acres of culturally and ecologically rich Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Doña Ana County.

    “New Mexico is fortunate to have two senators with such vision and commitment to permanently protecting these very special places,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild. “The breadth of community support for this legislation is truly inspiring and NM Wild is proud to stand with hunters, faith-based groups, youth organizations, area businesses and our conservation partners to make sure this land secures the protection it deserves. NM Wild and our 5,000 members thank Senators Udall and Heinrich, and stands ready to assist them in any way we can.”

    The national monument would include the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and Greater Potrillo Mountains. Among the wildlife that call this their home are golden eagles, many hawk species, owls, desert mule deer, three quail species, mountain lion, pronghorn, javelina, bobcat, coyote, bats, rock squirrels and other rodents, and numerous other birds.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is not just important for its biological features—it also contains important archaeological, geological, and historical sites. Places like Conklin’s Cave in the Organ Mountains and Shelter Cave in the Robledo Mountains have yielded artifacts dating the area’s human history back more than 8,000 years. Archaic petroglyphs in areas like Providence Cone and parts of the Sierra de Las Uvas are tantalizing signs of likely habitation sites that, if properly and respectfully studied, could open new windows into the movements of ancient cultures that called these areas home.

    The national monument is broadly backed by the local community—in a recent survey, more than 80 percent of people said they support the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proposal.

    “On the precipice of permanent protection, the community-supported Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument enjoys exciting momentum because of diverse supporters, creative partnerships and its intersection of natural and cultural landscapes,” said Nathan Small, NM Wild wilderness protection coordinator.

    Last year, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the 242,455-acre Rio Grande del Norte in Taos County as a National Monument. After more than seven years of working on the campaign, NM Wild is thankful to former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, congressmen Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, and President Obama for their work on the permanent protection of Rio Grande del Norte. NM Wild is also hopeful for a similar fate for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    “As we celebrate the introduction of this legislation, we invite Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel to visit this land and to walk, see and experience it personally,” said Allison. “We’re confident that she’ll immediately understand why these places need to be protected for future generations.”

    For more information about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks campaign, please visit www.organmountains.org.

    ###
    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.

  • Dec. 16, 2013
    KRWG

    Seven senior religious leaders representing 137 congregations throughout southern New Mexico presented New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich with a thank you letter today applauding their proposed legislation to protect the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks region.  This letter included signatures by the heads of communion from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Rocky Mountain Synod, the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces, the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, the New Mexico Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Rio Grande Mission of the Community of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of the Southwest.

    Senators Udall and Heinrich’s bill would protect an area of southern New Mexico prized by many.  The faith community joins Hispanic and Native American groups, sportsmen, businesses, and conservationists in supporting protection for this unique landscape.

    The Organ Mountains Desert Peaks region is a piece of God’s Creation that requires stewardship and care.  “We feel that Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is deserving of protection because it is full of natural gifts from God that have been entrusted to us,” said Sarah Nolan, Executive Director of CAFé.

    Rev. Dr. Donna McNeil, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches highlighted why the faith community is connected to conservation, “The New Mexico Conference of Churches is pleased with this step toward stewardship of God’s creation. Places such as the Organ Mountains are essential to human life. They give us a profound sense of rootedness in God’s world. And in our increasingly chaotic lives, wild spaces provide much needed space for reflection, prayer, and recreation.  Protecting the Organ Mountains ensures that people will be able to enjoy this blessing for generations to come.”

    The New Mexico Conference of Churches, CAFé, and Creation Justice Ministries joined the religious leaders on the letter highlighting the broad support within the religious community for the legislation.  “Faith communities around the country are engaged in efforts to care for God’s Earth. Senators Heinrich and Udall have heard the call from their constituents to protect this beautiful place and we look forward to securing broader protections for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks” noted Tyler Edgar, Transitional Executive Director for Creation Justice Ministries, a faith based organization made of 37 national Christian denominations.  The breadth of supporters showcases that the faith community sees creation care as a moral obligation.  Whether by legislation or declaration of the President, the faith community is urging more formal protection for the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks.

    The full letter can be read below:

    December 16, 2013

    Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich

    Senate of the United States

    110 & 702 Hart Senate Office Building

    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich:

    As senior religious leaders serving New Mexico and religious organizations working with communities in the Land of Enchantment, we would like to thank you for your proposed legislation to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region of New Mexico.  As people of faith, we believe that God has granted us use of Creation, but along with this gift comes the responsibility to tend and care for the land.  We must recognize that we are merely tenants on this planet, and we have been called to care for Creation so that future generations can live, thrive, and enjoy it just as we do.  By protecting this area, we are ensuring this piece of God’s gift will exist for many years to come.

    Outdoor spaces have been central to religion and spiritual practices for generations, and the Organ Mountains region is no different.  Few landscapes evoke a comparable sense of awe and wonder like mountains. Divine presence is often felt in these settings by countless pilgrims.  Not only are these mountain ranges mammoth embodiments of God’s power and love, but they provide a retreat from day to day distractions.  Protection is necessary to promise peace-seekers from near and far a wonderful piece of terrain in which to pray, reflect, meditate, and rejoice.

    This enchanting region exemplifies the best of what New Mexico has to offer: raw natural beauty, historical and cultural significance, and recreation opportunities for all.  This land is rugged, unspoiled, and wondrous, all qualities that make New Mexicans proud and draw visitors to witness.  The uniqueness of this area should be reason enough for protection.

    We want to commend you for your dedication to New Mexico, Creation, and future generations as you continue to support the protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region.  We sincerely appreciate the support you have shown and promise to continue the work to preserve this piece of God’s gift right in New Mexico’s backyard.

    Thank you again and we look forward to working with you!

    Sincerely,

    Most Rev. Oscar Cantú, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces

    Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, United Church of Christ Southwest Conference Minister

    Rev. Jim Gonia, Bishop Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    The Right Rev’d Michael L. Vono, D.D., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande

    Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe, Bishop of The New Mexico Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

    Rev. Charlotte J. Hoppe, Area Minister for Transition Tres Rios Area and Central Area of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Southwest

    Bruce Darrington, President of the Rio Grande Mission, Community of Christ

    Creation Justice Ministries

    New Mexico Conference of Churches

    Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé)

  • Dec. 16, 2013
    KRWG

    Seven senior religious leaders representing 137 congregations throughout southern New Mexico presented New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich with a thank you letter today applauding their proposed legislation to protect the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks region.  This letter included signatures by the heads of communion from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Rocky Mountain Synod, the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces, the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, the New Mexico Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Rio Grande Mission of the Community of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of the Southwest.

    Senators Udall and Heinrich’s bill would protect an area of southern New Mexico prized by many.  The faith community joins Hispanic and Native American groups, sportsmen, businesses, and conservationists in supporting protection for this unique landscape.

    The Organ Mountains Desert Peaks region is a piece of God’s Creation that requires stewardship and care.  “We feel that Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is deserving of protection because it is full of natural gifts from God that have been entrusted to us,” said Sarah Nolan, Executive Director of CAFé.

    Rev. Dr. Donna McNeil, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches highlighted why the faith community is connected to conservation, “The New Mexico Conference of Churches is pleased with this step toward stewardship of God’s creation. Places such as the Organ Mountains are essential to human life. They give us a profound sense of rootedness in God’s world. And in our increasingly chaotic lives, wild spaces provide much needed space for reflection, prayer, and recreation.  Protecting the Organ Mountains ensures that people will be able to enjoy this blessing for generations to come.”

    The New Mexico Conference of Churches, CAFé, and Creation Justice Ministries joined the religious leaders on the letter highlighting the broad support within the religious community for the legislation.  “Faith communities around the country are engaged in efforts to care for God’s Earth. Senators Heinrich and Udall have heard the call from their constituents to protect this beautiful place and we look forward to securing broader protections for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks” noted Tyler Edgar, Transitional Executive Director for Creation Justice Ministries, a faith based organization made of 37 national Christian denominations.  The breadth of supporters showcases that the faith community sees creation care as a moral obligation.  Whether by legislation or declaration of the President, the faith community is urging more formal protection for the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks.

    The full letter can be read below:

    December 16, 2013

    Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich

    Senate of the United States

    110 & 702 Hart Senate Office Building

    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich:

    As senior religious leaders serving New Mexico and religious organizations working with communities in the Land of Enchantment, we would like to thank you for your proposed legislation to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region of New Mexico.  As people of faith, we believe that God has granted us use of Creation, but along with this gift comes the responsibility to tend and care for the land.  We must recognize that we are merely tenants on this planet, and we have been called to care for Creation so that future generations can live, thrive, and enjoy it just as we do.  By protecting this area, we are ensuring this piece of God’s gift will exist for many years to come.

    Outdoor spaces have been central to religion and spiritual practices for generations, and the Organ Mountains region is no different.  Few landscapes evoke a comparable sense of awe and wonder like mountains. Divine presence is often felt in these settings by countless pilgrims.  Not only are these mountain ranges mammoth embodiments of God’s power and love, but they provide a retreat from day to day distractions.  Protection is necessary to promise peace-seekers from near and far a wonderful piece of terrain in which to pray, reflect, meditate, and rejoice.

    This enchanting region exemplifies the best of what New Mexico has to offer: raw natural beauty, historical and cultural significance, and recreation opportunities for all.  This land is rugged, unspoiled, and wondrous, all qualities that make New Mexicans proud and draw visitors to witness.  The uniqueness of this area should be reason enough for protection.

    We want to commend you for your dedication to New Mexico, Creation, and future generations as you continue to support the protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region.  We sincerely appreciate the support you have shown and promise to continue the work to preserve this piece of God’s gift right in New Mexico’s backyard.

    Thank you again and we look forward to working with you!

    Sincerely,

    Most Rev. Oscar Cantú, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces

    Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, United Church of Christ Southwest Conference Minister

    Rev. Jim Gonia, Bishop Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    The Right Rev’d Michael L. Vono, D.D., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande

    Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe, Bishop of The New Mexico Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

    Rev. Charlotte J. Hoppe, Area Minister for Transition Tres Rios Area and Central Area of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Southwest

    Bruce Darrington, President of the Rio Grande Mission, Community of Christ

    Creation Justice Ministries

    New Mexico Conference of Churches

    Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé)

  • Nov 21, 2013
    Albuquerque Business First
    Gary Gerew, Assistant Editor

    Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) both spoke at a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing to push for a bill that would designate the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo area in Taos County as wilderness.

    Udall and Heinrich introduced the proposal earlier this year. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-03).

    The legislation would expand the Wheeler Peak Wilderness by approximately 650 acres. The proposal would also modify a boundary that creates a loop trail accessible by mountain bikes along the Lost Lake trail from Taos Ski Valley to the East Fork trail to Red River, according to the senators.

    “This bill is the result of years of work by many people on how best to protect the Columbine-Hondo’s economic, recreational and scenic values,” Udall said. “Taos County residents, ranchers, governments and businesses resoundingly agree that this area deserves permanent wilderness status. By designating the Columbine-Hondo as wilderness, we will open up new tourism and recreation opportunities and protect vital tributaries to the Río Grande, while providing for continued traditional land uses, such as hunting and grazing.”

    “The Columbine-Hondo is one of the most treasured places in New Mexico,” Heinrich said. “Columbine-Hondo is a central attraction for visitors to Taos County, where outdoor recreation and tourism drive the local economy,” Heinrich said. “People come to these mountains to hike, camp, hunt, fish, and spend time with their families, and invariably they leave Taos County with their wallets a little lighter.”

  • Nov 21, 2013
    Albuquerque Business First
    Gary Gerew, Assistant Editor

    Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) both spoke at a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing to push for a bill that would designate the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo area in Taos County as wilderness.

    Udall and Heinrich introduced the proposal earlier this year. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-03).

    The legislation would expand the Wheeler Peak Wilderness by approximately 650 acres. The proposal would also modify a boundary that creates a loop trail accessible by mountain bikes along the Lost Lake trail from Taos Ski Valley to the East Fork trail to Red River, according to the senators.

    “This bill is the result of years of work by many people on how best to protect the Columbine-Hondo’s economic, recreational and scenic values,” Udall said. “Taos County residents, ranchers, governments and businesses resoundingly agree that this area deserves permanent wilderness status. By designating the Columbine-Hondo as wilderness, we will open up new tourism and recreation opportunities and protect vital tributaries to the Río Grande, while providing for continued traditional land uses, such as hunting and grazing.”

    “The Columbine-Hondo is one of the most treasured places in New Mexico,” Heinrich said. “Columbine-Hondo is a central attraction for visitors to Taos County, where outdoor recreation and tourism drive the local economy,” Heinrich said. “People come to these mountains to hike, camp, hunt, fish, and spend time with their families, and invariably they leave Taos County with their wallets a little lighter.”

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