2013

  • From High Country News
    April 29, 2013
    by Ernie Atencio 

    In early April, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, R, began pushing a bill that would limit presidential authority to designate new national monuments by forcing proposals to undergo environmental review first. The draft law is among a slew of similar measures House Republicans are working on in response to Obama’s March 25 creation of five new national monuments — two of them in the West. The president’s proclamation, Bishop argued, “is an abuse of executive privilege and robs the American people of a fair and open process.”

    The 1906 Antiquities Act, which grants the president unilateral authority to protect broad swaths of land as monuments, has long stirred controversy in the West, where rural residents often resent federal restrictions on public land that they feel ought to be governed locally. The 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is still a sore point in Bishop’s home state because Utah’s congressmen and governor were given only 24 hours’ notice before its 1996 designation; it also blocked a proposed coal mine. Affected counties were still fighting its management plan in federal court in 2009.

    So Bishop might have been surprised by the broad local support for the largest of the new monuments, New Mexico’s Río Grande del Norte. Its 240,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land stretch north of Taos to Colorado, and encompass sweeping sage plateaus, 10,000-foot-high mountains and the most dramatic stretch of the Río Grande Gorge. At a celebration in Taos, ranchers, Hispanic land grant heirs and Taos Pueblo tribal officials rubbed shoulders with Earth First! environmental warrior Dave Foreman and outdoor recreationists. Rather than decry presidential meddling, members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation touted projected economic growth from tourism, including nearly 300 jobs and $15 million in annual revenue.

    Why was Río Grande del Norte so different? The effort to create it started out like any other environmental campaign and could have easily floundered in the divisive dynamics of outside groups pushing an agenda without community input. But here, conservation interests stepped back and listened to local concerns, including from the majority Hispanic population, who, in some cases, had roots in the area going back 400 years. Eventually, the campaign was driven by local Hispanic leaders from bottom to top.

    “The proudest moments of my conservation career have been coalition meetings for the Río Grande del Norte, because they truly reflected the multicultural and multiethnic nature of the community,” says Michael Casaus, New Mexico director for The Wilderness Society. “I think we learned a lot of lessons that we will be using across the state and across the country.”

    Proposals to protect Río Grande del Norte have been in the works since the early ’90s, when then-Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., introduced a bill to make it a national conservation area. At the time, in a state with a majority Hispanic population, you could count the number of professional Hispanics in the New Mexico conservation movement on one hand. Many rural Hispanics felt that mainstream environmental groups had done little for their communities except restrict their access to critical resources on public land.

    When then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., resumed meetings on the issue in 2007 to prepare a bill for 2009, Esther García, current mayor of the village of Questa next door to the monument, emerged as one of its staunchest opponents. The proposal swallowed part of the community’s historic land grant, and García and her constituents worried it would hamper their cattle grazing and firewood and piñon-nut gathering, which date back to the 1700s. “We called Washington and told them that without the land grants, it was a no-go,” says the 67-year old.

    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance began helping Bingaman’s office with precedent-setting provisions that recognized land-grant rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, required grantees be consulted on management decisions and protected traditional land uses. Even so, García’s trust proved elusive until the organization tapped John Olivas, a local hunting and fishing guide who studied environmental science, to be its traditional community organizer in 2008.

    “If the movement didn’t happen within the Hispanic leadership, it wasn’t going to happen” in northern New Mexico, Olivas says. “Esther and I spoke the same language.” García’s brother, who holds a grazing permit on the monument land, and the Board of Trustees of the local land grant slowly came on board; other traditional community members followed. “It took a lot of pots of posole,” says Roberta Salazar of the local conservation group Rivers and Birds, who took up the cause in 2008, followed soon after by the New Mexico Wildlife Federation’s Max Trujillo.

    Meanwhile, The Wilderness Society’s Casaus connected the local coalition –now made up of conservationists, recreationists, local government, businesses, land grant and acequia (centuries-old irrigation association) activists, ranchers, and the Taos Pueblo — with national resources and expertise. Last year, García and local grazing permittee Erminio Martinez testified in D.C., supporting federal protection. Rafting guide Cisco Guevara became a vocal spokesman. Bingaman staffer Jorge Silva-Bañuelos provided critical support; then-Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar became the monument’s champion.

    “Hispanics have always been conservationists. We care about protecting the land and the water; that’s how we survive. But no one has ever paid attention,” says García. “Things are changing.”

    Hispanics in New Mexico have begun to take their rightful place in the conservation community, becoming more comfortable expressing environmental values on their own cultural terms. Numerous recent polls show that Hispanics support conservation more strongly than Anglos. That may be because communities of color, especially if low-income, often live closer to polluting industries and power plants, explains Javier Sierra, Sierra Club bilingual media strategist; Hispanics also often care about land and water as part of “profound religious values.”

    The growing Hispanic demographic is starting to flex its political muscles. The Río Grande del Norte may be an early sign of what that can mean for conservation nationwide. So it was that García, opponent at the outset, ended up in the Oval Office for the formal signing ceremony. “It was,” she says, beaming, “a dream come to reality.”

    This story was funded by a grant from the McCune Charitable Foundation.

  • From High Country News
    April 29, 2013
    by Ernie Atencio 

    In early April, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, R, began pushing a bill that would limit presidential authority to designate new national monuments by forcing proposals to undergo environmental review first. The draft law is among a slew of similar measures House Republicans are working on in response to Obama’s March 25 creation of five new national monuments — two of them in the West. The president’s proclamation, Bishop argued, “is an abuse of executive privilege and robs the American people of a fair and open process.”

    The 1906 Antiquities Act, which grants the president unilateral authority to protect broad swaths of land as monuments, has long stirred controversy in the West, where rural residents often resent federal restrictions on public land that they feel ought to be governed locally. The 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is still a sore point in Bishop’s home state because Utah’s congressmen and governor were given only 24 hours’ notice before its 1996 designation; it also blocked a proposed coal mine. Affected counties were still fighting its management plan in federal court in 2009.

    So Bishop might have been surprised by the broad local support for the largest of the new monuments, New Mexico’s Río Grande del Norte. Its 240,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land stretch north of Taos to Colorado, and encompass sweeping sage plateaus, 10,000-foot-high mountains and the most dramatic stretch of the Río Grande Gorge. At a celebration in Taos, ranchers, Hispanic land grant heirs and Taos Pueblo tribal officials rubbed shoulders with Earth First! environmental warrior Dave Foreman and outdoor recreationists. Rather than decry presidential meddling, members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation touted projected economic growth from tourism, including nearly 300 jobs and $15 million in annual revenue.

    Why was Río Grande del Norte so different? The effort to create it started out like any other environmental campaign and could have easily floundered in the divisive dynamics of outside groups pushing an agenda without community input. But here, conservation interests stepped back and listened to local concerns, including from the majority Hispanic population, who, in some cases, had roots in the area going back 400 years. Eventually, the campaign was driven by local Hispanic leaders from bottom to top.

    “The proudest moments of my conservation career have been coalition meetings for the Río Grande del Norte, because they truly reflected the multicultural and multiethnic nature of the community,” says Michael Casaus, New Mexico director for The Wilderness Society. “I think we learned a lot of lessons that we will be using across the state and across the country.”

    Proposals to protect Río Grande del Norte have been in the works since the early ’90s, when then-Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., introduced a bill to make it a national conservation area. At the time, in a state with a majority Hispanic population, you could count the number of professional Hispanics in the New Mexico conservation movement on one hand. Many rural Hispanics felt that mainstream environmental groups had done little for their communities except restrict their access to critical resources on public land.

    When then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., resumed meetings on the issue in 2007 to prepare a bill for 2009, Esther García, current mayor of the village of Questa next door to the monument, emerged as one of its staunchest opponents. The proposal swallowed part of the community’s historic land grant, and García and her constituents worried it would hamper their cattle grazing and firewood and piñon-nut gathering, which date back to the 1700s. “We called Washington and told them that without the land grants, it was a no-go,” says the 67-year old.

    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance began helping Bingaman’s office with precedent-setting provisions that recognized land-grant rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, required grantees be consulted on management decisions and protected traditional land uses. Even so, García’s trust proved elusive until the organization tapped John Olivas, a local hunting and fishing guide who studied environmental science, to be its traditional community organizer in 2008.

    “If the movement didn’t happen within the Hispanic leadership, it wasn’t going to happen” in northern New Mexico, Olivas says. “Esther and I spoke the same language.” García’s brother, who holds a grazing permit on the monument land, and the Board of Trustees of the local land grant slowly came on board; other traditional community members followed. “It took a lot of pots of posole,” says Roberta Salazar of the local conservation group Rivers and Birds, who took up the cause in 2008, followed soon after by the New Mexico Wildlife Federation’s Max Trujillo.

    Meanwhile, The Wilderness Society’s Casaus connected the local coalition –now made up of conservationists, recreationists, local government, businesses, land grant and acequia (centuries-old irrigation association) activists, ranchers, and the Taos Pueblo — with national resources and expertise. Last year, García and local grazing permittee Erminio Martinez testified in D.C., supporting federal protection. Rafting guide Cisco Guevara became a vocal spokesman. Bingaman staffer Jorge Silva-Bañuelos provided critical support; then-Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar became the monument’s champion.

    “Hispanics have always been conservationists. We care about protecting the land and the water; that’s how we survive. But no one has ever paid attention,” says García. “Things are changing.”

    Hispanics in New Mexico have begun to take their rightful place in the conservation community, becoming more comfortable expressing environmental values on their own cultural terms. Numerous recent polls show that Hispanics support conservation more strongly than Anglos. That may be because communities of color, especially if low-income, often live closer to polluting industries and power plants, explains Javier Sierra, Sierra Club bilingual media strategist; Hispanics also often care about land and water as part of “profound religious values.”

    The growing Hispanic demographic is starting to flex its political muscles. The Río Grande del Norte may be an early sign of what that can mean for conservation nationwide. So it was that García, opponent at the outset, ended up in the Oval Office for the formal signing ceremony. “It was,” she says, beaming, “a dream come to reality.”

    This story was funded by a grant from the McCune Charitable Foundation.

  • By Ernie Atencio / Writers on the Range – Albuquerque Journal
    Sun, May 26, 2013

    The 1906 Antiquities Act, which grants the president unilateral authority to protect broad swaths of land as monuments, has long stirred controversy in the West, where we don’t like the feds overstepping. The 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designated by Bill Clinton in 1996, is still a sore point because Utah’s congressmen and governor were given only 24 hours’ notice; it also blocked a proposed coal mine. Neighboring counties were still fighting its management plan in federal court in 2009.

    But in New Mexico this April, the politics were surprisingly different as President Obama designated a monument called Río Grande del Norte. Its 240,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land stretch north of Taos to Colorado and encompass sweeping sage plateaus, 10,000-foot-high mountains and the most dramatic stretch of the Río Grande Gorge.

    At a celebration in Taos, ranchers, Hispanic land-grant heirs and Taos Pueblo tribal officials rubbed shoulders with environmentalists and outdoor recreationists. Rather than decry presidential meddling, members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation touted how it would boost tourism, and thereby create nearly 300 jobs and $15 million in annual revenue.

    Why was Río Grande Del Norte so different? The effort to create it started out like any other environmental campaign and it could have easily floundered in the divisive dynamics of outside groups pushing an agenda without community involvement. But here, the campaign was driven by local Hispanic leaders – from bottom to top.

    “The proudest moments of my conservation career have been coalition meetings for the Río Grande del Norte, because they truly reflected the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nature of the community,” says Michael Casaus, New Mexico director for The Wilderness Society.

    But that representation was not true in the ’90s, when, in a state with a majority Hispanic population, you could count the number of professional Hispanics in the conservation movement on one hand, sometimes on one finger. At the time, many rural Hispanics felt that white, mainstream environmental groups had done little for their communities but restrict access to public land and resources. It was a period of notorious flashpoints between the “brown and the green.”

    So when then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman held meetings on the Río Grande Del Norte in 2007 to prepare a bill for 2009, Esther García, current mayor of the village of Questa next door to the monument, emerged as one of its staunchest opponents. Garcia and her constituents worried it would hamper their cattle grazing, and firewood and piñon-nut gathering, which date back to the 1700s.

    “We called Washington and told them that without the land grants, it was a no-go,” says the 67-year old.

    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance then began helping Bingaman’s office with precedent-setting provisions that recognized land grant rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, required that grantees be consulted on management decisions and protected traditional land uses. Even so, Garcia’s trust proved elusive until the organization tapped John Olivas, a Mora hunting and fishing guide who studied environmental science, to be its traditional community organizer in 2008.

    “If the movement didn’t happen within the Hispanic leadership, it wasn’t going to happen” in northern New Mexico, Olivas says. “Esther and I spoke the same language.” Garcia’s brother, who holds a grazing permit on the monument land, along with the Board of Trustees of the local land grant, slowly came on board; other traditional community members followed.

    “It took a lot of pots of posole,” says Roberta Salazar of the local conservation group Rivers and Birds, who took up the cause in 2008, followed soon after by New Mexico Wildlife Federation’s Max Trujillo.

    Meanwhile, The Wilderness Society’s Casaus connected the growing local coalition with national resources and expertise. Last year, García and local grazing permittee Erminio Martinez testified in Washington, D.C. in support of federal protection. Rafting guide Cisco Guevara became a vocal spokesman. Bingaman staffer Jorge Silva-Bañuelos provided critical support; Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar became the monument’s champion.

    “Hispanics have always been conservationists,” says Garcia, and they have finally begun to take their rightful place in the conservation community. In fact, numerous recent polls show that Hispanics more strongly support conservation than Anglos. That may be because low-income communities of color often live closer to polluting industries and power plants, explains Javier Sierra, Sierra Club bilingual media strategist, but Hispanics also care about land and water as part of “profound religious values.”

    So it was that García, opponent at the outset, ended up in the Oval Office for the formal signing ceremony. “It was,” she says beaming, “a dream come to reality.”

    Ernie Atencio is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is a longtime environmental organizer and writer in his native New Mexico.

  • New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens

    Hispano Round Table of New Mexico / Mesa Redonda Hispana de Nuevo México

    For Immediate Release
    May 23, 2013
    Contact: Ralph Arellanes: 505-688-2973
    Chris Cervini: 505-980-6110


    Groups Call for More Monuments Recognizing Latino Cultural Heritage;
    Cite Organ Mountains Desert Peaks as a Ripe Opportunity

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Members of the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico (HRT) this week both passed identical resolutions celebrating the creation of two new national monuments acknowledging Hispano/Latino contributions to our nation’s history.

    LULAC and HRT’s resolutions also call on the Obama administration to do more to ensure that protected public lands recognize the cultural heritage of American Latinos and point to the Organ Mountains Desert-Peaks region in southern New Mexico as an opportunity to do so.

    In the fall of 2012, President Barack Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, California. He followed that action by creating Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos, New Mexico, in March 2013.

    Leaders from Hispanic advocacy groups say both of these new National Monuments are important to understanding the role that Hispanics and Latinos have played in shaping American society.

    “We couldn’t be happier that there is now a César E. Chávez National Monument and a Rio Grande del Norte National Monument,” said Ralph Arellanes, NM State Director of LULAC. “These sites highlight the great accomplishments and rich cultural traditions of American Latinos. We thank President Obama for giving both sites a National Monument designation so the legacy they hold for American Latinos will be protected for all time.”

    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 for all working 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 near Taos. The region has been deeply tied to Hispanic culture for several centuries, and the Monument will recognize and protect traditional uses of the land, including hunting, grazing, and the gathering of firewood and piñon.

    Members of LULAC and the HRT said these recent national monument designations open the door for future national monuments in areas that are traditionally connected to Hispanic culture.

    “We are thrilled about both of these National Monuments, but there is still work to do,” said Jim Arellanes, legislative committee chairman of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico. “The impact that Hispanics have had on helping America become the nation that it is today is remarkable. It is our hope that President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewel will continue to make it a priority to protect sites that have been heavily influenced by Hispanic culture and tradition.”

    The resolution passed by the two groups mentions the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region surrounding Las Cruces as a site that is vital to preserving the heritage of Hispanic Americans. Diverse supporters including elected officials, business owners, veterans, sportsmen have called for its protection by the President as a national monument.

    “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region is an iconic and historic area. It was a resting place for those traveling along the Camino Real and includes the northern border of the Gadsden Purchase, among other historical significance,” said Ralph Arellanes of LULAC. “We feel strongly that it deserves to join other recent National Monuments and be federally protected from harm. We are grateful for the work of Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to protect this region and look forward to working with them to hopefully bring these efforts to fruition.”

    LULAC Resolution – May 2013

    HRT Resolution – May 2013

  • New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens

    Hispano Round Table of New Mexico / Mesa Redonda Hispana de Nuevo México

    For Immediate Release
    May 23, 2013
    Contact: Ralph Arellanes: 505-688-2973
    Chris Cervini: 505-980-6110


    Groups Call for More Monuments Recognizing Latino Cultural Heritage;
    Cite Organ Mountains Desert Peaks as a Ripe Opportunity

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Members of the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico (HRT) this week both passed identical resolutions celebrating the creation of two new national monuments acknowledging Hispano/Latino contributions to our nation’s history.

    LULAC and HRT’s resolutions also call on the Obama administration to do more to ensure that protected public lands recognize the cultural heritage of American Latinos and point to the Organ Mountains Desert-Peaks region in southern New Mexico as an opportunity to do so.

    In the fall of 2012, President Barack Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, California. He followed that action by creating Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos, New Mexico, in March 2013.

    Leaders from Hispanic advocacy groups say both of these new National Monuments are important to understanding the role that Hispanics and Latinos have played in shaping American society.

    “We couldn’t be happier that there is now a César E. Chávez National Monument and a Rio Grande del Norte National Monument,” said Ralph Arellanes, NM State Director of LULAC. “These sites highlight the great accomplishments and rich cultural traditions of American Latinos. We thank President Obama for giving both sites a National Monument designation so the legacy they hold for American Latinos will be protected for all time.”

    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 for all working 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 near Taos. The region has been deeply tied to Hispanic culture for several centuries, and the Monument will recognize and protect traditional uses of the land, including hunting, grazing, and the gathering of firewood and piñon.

    Members of LULAC and the HRT said these recent national monument designations open the door for future national monuments in areas that are traditionally connected to Hispanic culture.

    “We are thrilled about both of these National Monuments, but there is still work to do,” said Jim Arellanes, legislative committee chairman of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico. “The impact that Hispanics have had on helping America become the nation that it is today is remarkable. It is our hope that President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewel will continue to make it a priority to protect sites that have been heavily influenced by Hispanic culture and tradition.”

    The resolution passed by the two groups mentions the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region surrounding Las Cruces as a site that is vital to preserving the heritage of Hispanic Americans. Diverse supporters including elected officials, business owners, veterans, sportsmen have called for its protection by the President as a national monument.

    “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region is an iconic and historic area. It was a resting place for those traveling along the Camino Real and includes the northern border of the Gadsden Purchase, among other historical significance,” said Ralph Arellanes of LULAC. “We feel strongly that it deserves to join other recent National Monuments and be federally protected from harm. We are grateful for the work of Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to protect this region and look forward to working with them to hopefully bring these efforts to fruition.”

    LULAC Resolution – May 2013

    HRT Resolution – May 2013

  • By Jackie Jadrnak / ABQ Journal North Reporter
    Apr 14, 2013

    SANTA FE — Flush with success over President Barack Obama naming the sprawling Río Grande del Norte a national monument last month, wilderness advocates in northern New Mexico aren’t resting on their laurels.

    Next up: getting the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area finally made into an official wilderness area.

    “The Columbine Hondo is still is limbo. It never should have stayed a study area for 30-plus years,” said John Olivas, a traditional community organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and chairman of the Mora County Commission.

    Covering 46,000 acres in a Sangre de Cristo mountain basin in Taos County, Columbine Hondo was named a wilderness study area back in 1980, he said. A report was supposed to be made to the president on the results of the study and recommendations for action by 1986. That never happened.

    “Let’s get it into true wilderness and off the plate,” Olivas said.

    Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation introduced a bill last year to make that change, but it did not pass. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, met with advocates on Feb. 16 and discussed reintroducing the same legislation soon, according to Olivas.

    Udall and Heinrich’s offices confirmed Friday that the two plan to introduce a bill “before the end of the month.”

    “Through meetings with local leaders, citizens and advocates, I have heard immense local support for the permanent protection of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area,” Udall said.

    “Like the Rio Grande del Norte, the Columbine Hondo is treasured by the community of northern New Mexico and many years of hard work have been dedicated to ensuring its protection,” Heinrich said, adding that he was honored to work to guarantee “that it remains a treasure for New Mexicans to enjoy for generations to come.”

    Rep. Luján, also noting the broad support he has detected in the Taos County and surrounding areas, said, “I have been having conversations with my staff and stakeholders in New Mexico about the possibility of introducing legislation in the House. The current House leadership does not consider wilderness designations a priority; however, I am open to working on a House bill.”

    Congress in recent years has resisted putting additional restrictions on land across the nation, and some members have backed an effort to remove protections from all current wilderness study areas. And unlike the monument designation, which President Obama made unilaterally under the Antiquities Act, Congress needs to approve any wilderness designations, Olivas said.

    Noting that legislation making Río Grande del Norte a national monument was introduced into four consecutive congressional sessions before Obama acted on it, Olivas said similar efforts will be made to keep pursuing a Columbine Hondo Wilderness Area.

    “The drumbeat has to stay going,” he said.

    Columbine Hondo’s south end borders part of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, stretching up past Taos Ski Valley to near Red River, back westward beneath Molycorp’s molybdenum mine and down again. According to the website of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition (www.columbinehondo.org), the area contains the headwaters of the Rio Hondo and Red River, both of which flow into the Rio Grande, and surface water that flows into the acequias in agricultural communities such as Valdez, Arroyo Hondo, Arroyo Seco, San Cristóbal and Questa.

    Noting that the Río Grande del Norte is only 20 miles from this mountain area, Olivas said, “The Sangre de Cristo Mountains here are kind of its watershed… It is the sponge of the water that we use.”

    Protecting that land “is important to grazing permitees, traditional acequias and land grants,” said Erminio Martinez of Arroyo Seco. “That’s the foundation of these great northern New Mexico traditions that went into effect 400 years ago.”

    Following the traditions of his ancestors, Martinez said he grazes 60 head of “mother cows” on land near Taos Ski Valley and Eagle Nest in the summer. The coalition seeking wilderness designation for Columbine Hondo won his support by promising to protect such traditional uses, he said, while acknowledging that some of his peers oppose the wilderness because it would give additional government control over the land.

    “If it’s not wilderness, what really concerns me is there’s been a lot of exploitation of this earth by corporations, drilling and abusing it,” Martinez said. Some people in authority want to sell public land to help ease federal debt, he noted.

    “These lands are attractive to corporations or foreign countries,” he said. “We need more wilderness in northern New Mexico.”

    Carson National Forest has been managing this land since 1980 as wilderness, according to Olivas, but it’s not clear how far its authority stretches in enforcing wilderness rules in study areas. “There is some mountain biking and some motor access,” he said, adding that such use is outlawed in a wilderness.

    But he added that the coalition backing wilderness designation has been working with different groups to address their concerns, such as adjusting borders or making other changes to allow for things such as a parking lot for Taos Ski Valley, a wastewater treatment plant expansion for Red River, and designated loops for mountain bikers.

    That’s the sort of cooperation and negotiation that resulted in widespread community support for Río Grande del Norte National Monument, and the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition has been doing similar work to bring people together since it formed in 2010, according to Olivas.

  • By Jackie Jadrnak / ABQ Journal North Reporter
    Apr 14, 2013

    SANTA FE — Flush with success over President Barack Obama naming the sprawling Río Grande del Norte a national monument last month, wilderness advocates in northern New Mexico aren’t resting on their laurels.

    Next up: getting the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area finally made into an official wilderness area.

    “The Columbine Hondo is still is limbo. It never should have stayed a study area for 30-plus years,” said John Olivas, a traditional community organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and chairman of the Mora County Commission.

    Covering 46,000 acres in a Sangre de Cristo mountain basin in Taos County, Columbine Hondo was named a wilderness study area back in 1980, he said. A report was supposed to be made to the president on the results of the study and recommendations for action by 1986. That never happened.

    “Let’s get it into true wilderness and off the plate,” Olivas said.

    Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation introduced a bill last year to make that change, but it did not pass. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, met with advocates on Feb. 16 and discussed reintroducing the same legislation soon, according to Olivas.

    Udall and Heinrich’s offices confirmed Friday that the two plan to introduce a bill “before the end of the month.”

    “Through meetings with local leaders, citizens and advocates, I have heard immense local support for the permanent protection of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area,” Udall said.

    “Like the Rio Grande del Norte, the Columbine Hondo is treasured by the community of northern New Mexico and many years of hard work have been dedicated to ensuring its protection,” Heinrich said, adding that he was honored to work to guarantee “that it remains a treasure for New Mexicans to enjoy for generations to come.”

    Rep. Luján, also noting the broad support he has detected in the Taos County and surrounding areas, said, “I have been having conversations with my staff and stakeholders in New Mexico about the possibility of introducing legislation in the House. The current House leadership does not consider wilderness designations a priority; however, I am open to working on a House bill.”

    Congress in recent years has resisted putting additional restrictions on land across the nation, and some members have backed an effort to remove protections from all current wilderness study areas. And unlike the monument designation, which President Obama made unilaterally under the Antiquities Act, Congress needs to approve any wilderness designations, Olivas said.

    Noting that legislation making Río Grande del Norte a national monument was introduced into four consecutive congressional sessions before Obama acted on it, Olivas said similar efforts will be made to keep pursuing a Columbine Hondo Wilderness Area.

    “The drumbeat has to stay going,” he said.

    Columbine Hondo’s south end borders part of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, stretching up past Taos Ski Valley to near Red River, back westward beneath Molycorp’s molybdenum mine and down again. According to the website of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition (www.columbinehondo.org), the area contains the headwaters of the Rio Hondo and Red River, both of which flow into the Rio Grande, and surface water that flows into the acequias in agricultural communities such as Valdez, Arroyo Hondo, Arroyo Seco, San Cristóbal and Questa.

    Noting that the Río Grande del Norte is only 20 miles from this mountain area, Olivas said, “The Sangre de Cristo Mountains here are kind of its watershed… It is the sponge of the water that we use.”

    Protecting that land “is important to grazing permitees, traditional acequias and land grants,” said Erminio Martinez of Arroyo Seco. “That’s the foundation of these great northern New Mexico traditions that went into effect 400 years ago.”

    Following the traditions of his ancestors, Martinez said he grazes 60 head of “mother cows” on land near Taos Ski Valley and Eagle Nest in the summer. The coalition seeking wilderness designation for Columbine Hondo won his support by promising to protect such traditional uses, he said, while acknowledging that some of his peers oppose the wilderness because it would give additional government control over the land.

    “If it’s not wilderness, what really concerns me is there’s been a lot of exploitation of this earth by corporations, drilling and abusing it,” Martinez said. Some people in authority want to sell public land to help ease federal debt, he noted.

    “These lands are attractive to corporations or foreign countries,” he said. “We need more wilderness in northern New Mexico.”

    Carson National Forest has been managing this land since 1980 as wilderness, according to Olivas, but it’s not clear how far its authority stretches in enforcing wilderness rules in study areas. “There is some mountain biking and some motor access,” he said, adding that such use is outlawed in a wilderness.

    But he added that the coalition backing wilderness designation has been working with different groups to address their concerns, such as adjusting borders or making other changes to allow for things such as a parking lot for Taos Ski Valley, a wastewater treatment plant expansion for Red River, and designated loops for mountain bikers.

    That’s the sort of cooperation and negotiation that resulted in widespread community support for Río Grande del Norte National Monument, and the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition has been doing similar work to bring people together since it formed in 2010, according to Olivas.

  • 2015 10 14 14 45 59

  • 2015 10 14 14 43 31

  • jan feb

  • Bring a snack, hat, sunscreen, water and sturdy footwear.
    www.blm.gov/nm 
    Taos Field Office: 575-758-8851

    June 1-Sat 9:00 am Las Vistas de Questa Trail 3 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead off of Don Martinez Road in Questa (follow signs from NM 522). This is a moderate 3.7 mile hike to some spectacular overlooks of the eastern portion
    of the Monument, and the Columbine-Hondo area. We’ll talk about geology and wildlife.

    June 2-Sun 8:30 am La Vista Verde Trail 2 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead 1/2 mile west of Taos Junction Bridge for this easy 2.5 mile roundtrip hike in the Lower Gorge. Wonderful views in the Gorge, with petroglyphs and geology-in-action.

    June 8-Sat 8:30 am The Slide Trail (Old 570) 2 hrs
    Meet at the very end of C-110, a few miles past the UNM Klauer Campus, for this moderate two mile roundtrip hike—a perfect introduction to the Rio Grande Gorge, the Rio Pueblo canyon, petroglyphs and geology in action.

    June 8-Sat 9:00 am Guadalupe Mountain Trail 4 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead off of NM 378 (Wild Rivers Back Country Byway). This is a difficult 4.5 mile roundtrip hike to the top of one of the nine peaks in the Monument over 8,000 feet in elevation.

    June 15-Sat 8:00 am Ute Mountain Hike 6+ hrs
    Meet at the Alta gas station in Costilla at 8 am. This is a steep hike in a wilderness quality setting, with no trail—so wear pants and long sleeves, and sturdy footwear. The hike will be led by John Olivas of the Wilderness Alliance, and Eddy Dry of Red River, a long time wilderness advocate. Ute Mountain is the tallest peak in the Monument, at 10,093 feet.

    June 15-Sat 8:30 am Picuris Trail 2 hrs
    The trailhead is next to Taos Junction Bridge—the trail follows a route used by Puebloans and early Spanish settlers, and is steep in places. The 2.5 mile roundtrip hike offers a lesson in history, and great views.

    June 22-Sat 8:30 am Petaca Point Trail 2 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead on NM 567, near the West Rim Road turnoff. An easy 2.5 mile roundtrip walk along the west rim of the Rio Grande Gorge. Spectacular views, settlement history, and archaeology.

    June 22-Sat 9:00 am Big Arsenic Trail 2 hrs
    Meet at the Wild Rivers Visitor Center for this moderate 3-mile roundtrip hike into the Rio Grande Gorge. Petroglyphs, the wild river, and an ‘inverted’ ecosystem.

    June 29-Sat 8:30 am Senda del Medio Trail 4 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead in Pilar Campground (Orilla Verde area) on NM 570 for this easy to moderate 2.5 mile roundtrip hike along one of the Monument’s newer trails. Great views in the middle of the Gorge, and a diverse group of animals and plants.

    June 29-Sat 9:00 am Pescado Trail 3 hrs
    Meet at the Red River Fish Hatchery, a few miles south of Questa on NM 515. Beautiful hike in the Red River Canyon, and through some some great big game habitat to the rim and back.

  • Bring a snack, hat, sunscreen, water and sturdy footwear.
    www.blm.gov/nm 
    Taos Field Office: 575-758-8851

    June 1-Sat 9:00 am Las Vistas de Questa Trail 3 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead off of Don Martinez Road in Questa (follow signs from NM 522). This is a moderate 3.7 mile hike to some spectacular overlooks of the eastern portion
    of the Monument, and the Columbine-Hondo area. We’ll talk about geology and wildlife.

    June 2-Sun 8:30 am La Vista Verde Trail 2 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead 1/2 mile west of Taos Junction Bridge for this easy 2.5 mile roundtrip hike in the Lower Gorge. Wonderful views in the Gorge, with petroglyphs and geology-in-action.

    June 8-Sat 8:30 am The Slide Trail (Old 570) 2 hrs
    Meet at the very end of C-110, a few miles past the UNM Klauer Campus, for this moderate two mile roundtrip hike—a perfect introduction to the Rio Grande Gorge, the Rio Pueblo canyon, petroglyphs and geology in action.

    June 8-Sat 9:00 am Guadalupe Mountain Trail 4 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead off of NM 378 (Wild Rivers Back Country Byway). This is a difficult 4.5 mile roundtrip hike to the top of one of the nine peaks in the Monument over 8,000 feet in elevation.

    June 15-Sat 8:00 am Ute Mountain Hike 6+ hrs
    Meet at the Alta gas station in Costilla at 8 am. This is a steep hike in a wilderness quality setting, with no trail—so wear pants and long sleeves, and sturdy footwear. The hike will be led by John Olivas of the Wilderness Alliance, and Eddy Dry of Red River, a long time wilderness advocate. Ute Mountain is the tallest peak in the Monument, at 10,093 feet.

    June 15-Sat 8:30 am Picuris Trail 2 hrs
    The trailhead is next to Taos Junction Bridge—the trail follows a route used by Puebloans and early Spanish settlers, and is steep in places. The 2.5 mile roundtrip hike offers a lesson in history, and great views.

    June 22-Sat 8:30 am Petaca Point Trail 2 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead on NM 567, near the West Rim Road turnoff. An easy 2.5 mile roundtrip walk along the west rim of the Rio Grande Gorge. Spectacular views, settlement history, and archaeology.

    June 22-Sat 9:00 am Big Arsenic Trail 2 hrs
    Meet at the Wild Rivers Visitor Center for this moderate 3-mile roundtrip hike into the Rio Grande Gorge. Petroglyphs, the wild river, and an ‘inverted’ ecosystem.

    June 29-Sat 8:30 am Senda del Medio Trail 4 hrs
    Meet at the trailhead in Pilar Campground (Orilla Verde area) on NM 570 for this easy to moderate 2.5 mile roundtrip hike along one of the Monument’s newer trails. Great views in the middle of the Gorge, and a diverse group of animals and plants.

    June 29-Sat 9:00 am Pescado Trail 3 hrs
    Meet at the Red River Fish Hatchery, a few miles south of Questa on NM 515. Beautiful hike in the Red River Canyon, and through some some great big game habitat to the rim and back.

  • The Taos News
    March 17, 2013

    New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell has reiterated his support for monument designation for the Río Grande del Norte area.

    The 236,000-acre area in Taos and Río Arriba counties has been the focus of a number of federal efforts seeking to lend it permanent protection. Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, introduced a bill last year to create a National Conservation Area around the Río Grande Corridor, including more than 21,000 acres of wilderness around Ute Mountain and San Antonio Mountain.

    However, Bingaman’s legislation stalled in Congress. Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, reintroduced similar legislation this year in the Senate and House. However, during a visit to Taos Feb. 16, cosponsor Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, said “gridlock” in Washington, D.C., is the biggest enemy of legislative efforts to protect the Río Grande del Norte.

    In light of such “gridlock,” New Mexico’s Congressional delegates and others have also appealed to President Obama to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to establish a National Monument around the Río Grande del Norte area. During his visit last month, Heinrich said he met with Obama about the idea earlier this year and came away from the meeting “very positive and optimistic.”

    According to a Tuesday (March 12) release from Powell’s office, the boundaries of the proposed monument include about 45,000 acres of State Trust Land, and the State Land Office is working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to “identify lands suitable for exchange.” “This is an excellent example of a collaborative effort between the local community, the New Mexico State Land Office, our New Mexico Congressional team and our federal partners, the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Powell is quoted as saying in the release.

  • The Taos News
    March 17, 2013

    New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell has reiterated his support for monument designation for the Río Grande del Norte area.

    The 236,000-acre area in Taos and Río Arriba counties has been the focus of a number of federal efforts seeking to lend it permanent protection. Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, introduced a bill last year to create a National Conservation Area around the Río Grande Corridor, including more than 21,000 acres of wilderness around Ute Mountain and San Antonio Mountain.

    However, Bingaman’s legislation stalled in Congress. Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, reintroduced similar legislation this year in the Senate and House. However, during a visit to Taos Feb. 16, cosponsor Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, said “gridlock” in Washington, D.C., is the biggest enemy of legislative efforts to protect the Río Grande del Norte.

    In light of such “gridlock,” New Mexico’s Congressional delegates and others have also appealed to President Obama to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to establish a National Monument around the Río Grande del Norte area. During his visit last month, Heinrich said he met with Obama about the idea earlier this year and came away from the meeting “very positive and optimistic.”

    According to a Tuesday (March 12) release from Powell’s office, the boundaries of the proposed monument include about 45,000 acres of State Trust Land, and the State Land Office is working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to “identify lands suitable for exchange.” “This is an excellent example of a collaborative effort between the local community, the New Mexico State Land Office, our New Mexico Congressional team and our federal partners, the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Powell is quoted as saying in the release.

  • Donate Online

    2015 10 14 10 56 14

  • Donate Online

    2015 10 14 10 53 21

  • Donate Online

    2015 10 14 10 53 21

  • Dear FriendsTisha with Roscoe,

    As 2013 draws to an end, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is thankful for the conservation successes we have achieved this year thanks to the generous support of individuals like you! I hope you all take pride in being a part of our success and commitment to wilderness.

    We have big plans for 2014 for places like the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Columbine Hondo. Through ambitious goals, strong partnerships and the dedication of our members, we can protect many more wild places in the Land of Enchantment. Please consider making a tax-deductible year-end contribution to invest in our future. Your generous donation helps us protect wilderness forever and cultivate the next generation of wilderness stewards.

    There are several ways in which you can make a donation to help us advance our wilderness campaigns:

    • Make a year-end, tax-deductible donation online.   
    • Mail a check. New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, PO Box 25464, Albuquerque, NM 87125
    • Make a stock gift. Contact Roxanne: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 505-843-8696, ext. 103.
    • Check with your employer to find out if they have a matching gifts program today or designate New Mexico Wilderness Alliance as your preferred charity through your United Way workplace giving campaign. 
    • Donate by credit card over the phone by calling 505-843-8696.
    • Browse our wish list.
    • Buy a gift membership for someone special.
    • Do your holiday shopping through GoodShop. At GoodShop, up to 30 percent of every purchase will go to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Find coupons and deals for more than 1,000 stores. Just go to the GoodShop website, type in New Mexico Wilderness Alliance in the search bar, and then shop!
    • Shop through AmazonSmile. When you purchase an item on AmazonSmile , you will be prompted to select a charitable organization (type in “New Mexico Wilderness Alliance” in the search box). For eligible purchases at AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5 percent of the purchase price to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

    Thanks again for being part of our wilderness community. We could not continue this work to protect our wilderness and precious wildlife without you. Please have a safe and happy holiday season!

    In appreciation,

    Tisha Broska, Associate Director

    PS: Over the next few weeks you may notice an increase in e-mails from us during our year-end fundraiser. Please bear with us—things will go back to normal in January!

  • WASHINGTON, D.C. –The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) passed a resolution at its 84th annual national convention this past weekend thanking President Barack Obama for designating two new national monuments that preserve the legacy of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States. The resolution passed unanimously, with over 1,600 assembly delegates voting.

    In the resolution, LULAC also calls for more action to ensure that our nation’s federal network of national monuments, parks, and conservation lands recognizes the cultural heritage of American Latinos as part of our nation’s heritage. The resolution points to one particular area where this opportunity is ripe: the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.

    In the fall of 2012, President Obama created the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, California. The monument recognizes the significant role that Chávez played in American history by preserving Chávez’s home and gravesite, as well as the headquarters of United Farm Workers of America, also known as Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz.

    “We are very pleased that President Obama has acknowledged the role that Hispanics have played in shaping our nation,” said Margaret Moran, the National President of LULAC. “César Chávez, in particular, helped prove that Hispanics have a strong voice and are important to the American story. It is only fitting for his work and memory to be federally recognized with a national monument.”

    Then, in March of 2013, the President designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, protecting 242,555 acres of public lands near Taos, New Mexico. Hispanics have explored and lived in the region since the early 1500s, contributing mightily to the creation of a unique New Mexican culture that exists to this day. The national monument designation guarantees that traditional uses of the land will be preserved – an achievement celebrated by New Mexico policymakers and diverse land users.

    “Rio Grande del Norte is a special place, boasting a diversity of wildlife and rare scenic beauty,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). “To top it off, the region is rich in Hispanic and Native American traditions. It is fitting that President Obama was willing to give it a national monument designation, preserving this unique culture and the lands that sustain it for all time.”

    “I join LULAC and the communities of southern New Mexico in seeking protection for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as well,” Udall added. “This unique piece of southern New Mexico has abundant natural and economic value, and it celebrates diversity and the rich Hispanic culture of the region.”

    Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) echoed Udall’s statements: “Rio Grande del Norte means so much to the people of northern New Mexico, culturally and economically. It is a wonderful place to visit and, thankfully, this national monument designation will allow future generations to enjoy all it has to offer.”

    The resolution passed by LULAC comes on the heels of the New Mexico chapter of the organization passing a similar resolution in May, also calling for protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    This area is marked by majestic craggy peaks and has served as a crucial crossroads of the Camino Real – the historic migration route that for centuries linked Colonial Mexico City and settlements in the north.

    “While we are thrilled about the Cesar Chavez and Rio Grande del Norte monuments, more work is needed to preserve our cultural heritage,” said Ralph Arellanes, Director of the New Mexico LULAC chapter. “We look forward to working closely with President Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, our Senators, and Congress to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and tell the story of Latinos in America.”

    View the resolution here.

  • WASHINGTON, D.C. –The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) passed a resolution at its 84th annual national convention this past weekend thanking President Barack Obama for designating two new national monuments that preserve the legacy of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States. The resolution passed unanimously, with over 1,600 assembly delegates voting.

    In the resolution, LULAC also calls for more action to ensure that our nation’s federal network of national monuments, parks, and conservation lands recognizes the cultural heritage of American Latinos as part of our nation’s heritage. The resolution points to one particular area where this opportunity is ripe: the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.

    In the fall of 2012, President Obama created the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, California. The monument recognizes the significant role that Chávez played in American history by preserving Chávez’s home and gravesite, as well as the headquarters of United Farm Workers of America, also known as Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz.

    “We are very pleased that President Obama has acknowledged the role that Hispanics have played in shaping our nation,” said Margaret Moran, the National President of LULAC. “César Chávez, in particular, helped prove that Hispanics have a strong voice and are important to the American story. It is only fitting for his work and memory to be federally recognized with a national monument.”

    Then, in March of 2013, the President designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, protecting 242,555 acres of public lands near Taos, New Mexico. Hispanics have explored and lived in the region since the early 1500s, contributing mightily to the creation of a unique New Mexican culture that exists to this day. The national monument designation guarantees that traditional uses of the land will be preserved – an achievement celebrated by New Mexico policymakers and diverse land users.

    “Rio Grande del Norte is a special place, boasting a diversity of wildlife and rare scenic beauty,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). “To top it off, the region is rich in Hispanic and Native American traditions. It is fitting that President Obama was willing to give it a national monument designation, preserving this unique culture and the lands that sustain it for all time.”

    “I join LULAC and the communities of southern New Mexico in seeking protection for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as well,” Udall added. “This unique piece of southern New Mexico has abundant natural and economic value, and it celebrates diversity and the rich Hispanic culture of the region.”

    Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) echoed Udall’s statements: “Rio Grande del Norte means so much to the people of northern New Mexico, culturally and economically. It is a wonderful place to visit and, thankfully, this national monument designation will allow future generations to enjoy all it has to offer.”

    The resolution passed by LULAC comes on the heels of the New Mexico chapter of the organization passing a similar resolution in May, also calling for protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    This area is marked by majestic craggy peaks and has served as a crucial crossroads of the Camino Real – the historic migration route that for centuries linked Colonial Mexico City and settlements in the north.

    “While we are thrilled about the Cesar Chavez and Rio Grande del Norte monuments, more work is needed to preserve our cultural heritage,” said Ralph Arellanes, Director of the New Mexico LULAC chapter. “We look forward to working closely with President Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, our Senators, and Congress to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and tell the story of Latinos in America.”

    View the resolution here.

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