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On September 17, The Wilderness Society, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Sierra Club and Campion Advocacy Fund presented Senator Martin Heinrich with the John P. Saylor Wilderness Leadership Award for his service to wilderness conservation during his years serving in the House and Senate. 

The award is named for former Representative John P. Saylor, a Republican from Pennsylvania, who was the lead sponsor and champion in the House of Representatives for the Wilderness Act, which was signed into law 50 years ago this month. Rep. Saylor served in Congress from 1949 until his death in 1973.

Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, says, “Senator Heinrich has worked as a champion for many vital wilderness bills in the House and the Senate. He brings a balanced and broad approach to conserving New Mexico’s treasured public lands. The Senator works skillfully with a diverse array of community stakeholders who find common ground in their shared love of New Mexico’s wild landscapes for all Americans and for future generations to enjoy.”

Specifically, Senator Heinrich’s leadership has been invaluable for conserving important public lands in New Mexico such as the Río Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains Desert Peaks regions, both of which have been preserved as national monuments with his strong support. He was also a leader in the campaigns to designate the Ojito and Sabinoso Wilderness Areas in New Mexico. 

The Senator is a co-sponsor and champion of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776/H.R. 1683), which would protect approximately 45,000 acres of forest land in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains – an area that contains the headwaters of the Rio Hondo and Red River, significant clean water sources for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico. The Columbine Hondo, which is popular among hunters, anglers, hikers and backpackers, has been under official consideration as a potential wilderness area for more than 30 years. 

He is co-sponsor of Cerros del Norte Conservation Act (S. 241), which would establish two wilderness areas totaling about 21,000 acres within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. He is also co-sponsor of Organ Mountains Desert Peaks Conservation Act, S. 1805, which would establish eight new wilderness areas, totaling more than 240,000 acres, within the new OMDP National Monument in New Mexico. 

Protected wild places contribute to the New Mexico’s robust and sustainable outdoor recreation economy, which generates $6.1 billion in consumer spending in the state, 68,000 New Mexico jobs, and $1.7 billion in wages and salaries, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

September is National Wilderness Month and this month marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, which gave American people and Congress the ability to preserve special wild places for their value as sources of clean water, habitat for wildlife and outstanding recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing, camping and hiking. Today the National Wilderness Preservation System encompasses nearly 110 million acres of wild country in 44 states and includes lands in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Land Management areas.