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Another conservation effort

From the Las Vegas Optic
9-18-09

By John Olivas
Northern Director
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

Forty-five years ago this month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed to legislation that would have a lasting impact on our nation’s public lands — not by changing them, but by making sure some portion of these magnificent wild places would stay as they were for all time and for all generations to use and enjoy. The Wilderness Act, signed into law Sept. 3, 1964, was acknowledgement that our public lands are part of what shape us as a people and that there is value in protecting some of them in their pristine state as a natural legacy.

Over the last four and a half decades, this act, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System, has been used to forever protect some of New Mexico’s wild treasures, including the Gila, Aldo Leopold, and Blue Range Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico, and the Pecos, Wheeler Peak, and Latir Peak in the northern part of the state. Earlier this year, after years of work by sportsmen, conservationists, business leaders and ranchers, the Sabinoso Wilderness, located in eastern San Miguel County, became one of the nation’s newest wilderness areas. Sabinoso Wilderness was part of a major lands package that was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March, which protected 16,030 acres for future generations.

A similar group of diverse interests have been working with Sen. Jeff Bingaman to add more special wild places to the wilderness treasury. Efforts are underway to designate the Cerro de Yuta Wilderness and the Rio San Antonio Wilderness as part of a measure introduced by the Senator to create the 235,980-acre El Rio Grande Del Norte National Conservation Area. His bill, which has won the backing of the Taos County Commission and the support of the Mora Valley and Taos County Chambers of Commerce, would ensure that this wildlife and botanically rich area would stay as it is — for camping, hunting, fishing, and quiet solitude. The legislation would preserve an important part of our natural heritage, an area that boasts high-mesa sagebrush grasslands, woodlands of piñon juniper, and extinct volcano cinder cones.

The senator has crafted his bill to allow for longstanding traditions to continue, such as grazing and the collection of firewood and piñon nuts, and protects land-grant members their rights granted under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

We applaud this conservation effort and hope to see it become the law of the land as soon as possible.

Big Bend International Peace Park

bigbend smaller 300x201For more than eleven years, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has made protecting the wild landscapes of our state its primary focus. That will not change as we move forward. Having said that, we have also found reason to help protect lands elsewhere, and there is some promising new developments taking place this very moment.

For the past few years, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has been working with the superintendents of Guadalupe and Big Bend national parks in Texas on a range of issues, including the reintroduction and management of native species.

For Big Bend, we’re trying to have more than 600,000 acres placed into the Wilderness Preservation System. Along the Mexican side of the border, across from Big Bend, lay 1.8 million protected acres, encompassing Sierra del Carmen, Ocampo, and Cañon de Santa Elena. What makes this important is the opportunity to create an international peace park. A significant precedent was established thirty-two years ago when Glacier National Park, on our northern border, and Waterton Park on the Canadian side, were declared an international peace park. The idea came from U.S. and Canadian citizens and members of the International Rotary Club, who felt they had strong connections that transcended national borders.

Read more about these efforts on our website by clicking here.

Earlier today (July 30), a Resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), supporting an international park between Big Bend National Park in the United States and the protected areas of the Coahuila and Chihuahua States across the border in Mexico.

This is tremendous news!

Read the Resolution here: International Park Resolution

Please take the time to send a free fax to Congressman Rodriguez, thanking him for this resolution and to also urge New Mexico’s congressional delegation to support this important step forward in establishing this international peace park.

Send your free fax here: http://ga1.org/campaign/peacepark

Doña Ana County Wilderness Bill Introduced!

For Immediate Release

Sportsmen, business owners, conservationists, local elected officials and other community members hailed the introduction today of The Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act, by Senator Jeff Bingaman and Senator Tom Udall. The measure will protect nearly 400,000 acres of public land in Dona Ana County, by designating 271,050 acres as wilderness and creating a 109,600-acre National Conservation Area around the Organ and Doña Ana Mountains and parts of Broad Canyon.

“We applaud Senators Bingaman and Udall for their dedication to ensuring that more of New Mexico’s beloved wild places will be around for our children’s children to use and enjoy,” said Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima. “Their bill follows years of discussion and collaboration with community members with many different interests and concerns.”

Bonnie Burn, President of the League of Women Voters, added, “We all share the goal of protecting Doña Ana County’s unique and precious open areas which add so much to our quality of life.”

“This important conservation bill comes as the nation celebrates the 45th anniversary of the Wilderness Act,” said Stephen Capra, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “That broadly backed measure allowed citizens to add other worthy wild places to our preservation system. It is fitting that it will help us today protect such beloved area icons as the Organ Mountains and Broad Canyon.”

“The Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act will ensure that our grandchildren can hunt in and enjoy these areas as we have done,” said Sandy Schemnitz, President of the Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen. “A New Mexico sportsman– Aldo Leopold – first conceived the idea of wilderness to preserve the hunting he’d come to love in the Gila. Today, Doña Ana County sportsmen are delighted that this legislation will help us pass down our traditions.”

“It’s not surprising that over a hundred local businesses support greater protection for the wilderness in ‘our backyards,’” said John Munoz, of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce.“We’re beginning to understand how wilderness attracts visitors who come here to camp, hike, hunt, explore, open businesses and ultimately keep our cash registers ringing and our livelihoods thriving.”

A 2006 poll of Doña Ana County residents by Public Opinion Strategies found that a majority of residents favor protecting wilderness in the area. The municipalities of Las Cruces, Sunland Park, Mesilla and the Doña Ana County Commission have adopted resolutions supporting protection of these areas to boost the local economies.

In a tough compromise, the bill crafted by the Senators contains 30,000 less acres of wilderness than proposed by conservationists. However, they applaud Senators Bingaman and Udall for reaching out to all parties to address any and all issues. The measure will protect rare grasslands in the Potrillo and Uvas Mountains, petroglyph sites and riparian areas in Broad Canyon, crucial watersheds, and the iconic spires of Las Cruces’ signature attraction: the Organ Mountains.

“Our wild places truly make New Mexico the ‘Land of Enchantment.’ This important new bill will help ensure more of it will stay just as it is,” said Don Patterson, of the Back Country Horseman. “We urge Congress to pass this common sense conservation bill soon, and send it to the president.”

Wilderness Outdoor Connection Leadership Program

2009 Valle Vidal Service Project

DSC 0473 300x199On July 17-19, 2009 The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NMWA) and the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation (AWF) partnered to do a joint project around volunteer service work and youth education in the Valle Vidal – McCrystal Campground Area. NMWA headed the youth activities for the weekend that included groups from throughout northern New Mexico. The groups that participated in the event were the NMWA Wilderness Outdoor Connection Leadership Group from Mora and Questa, Rocky Mountain Youth Corp Group out of Taos, the northern New Mexico Sembrando Semilla Youth Group, New Mexico Acequia Association and the Fit in Taos Youth Leadership Group. In total there were 27 students that participated in the event.

Events included; Ecological Presentation by Fitness in Taos leadership, Wild Earth Llama Adventures Hike-Take a Llama to Lunch, Team Building and Group Activities for Youth presented by the Rocky Mountain Youth Corp and story telling around the campfire. On one of the evenings there were leave no trace ethics discussion around the camp fire that engage the students in talking about the environment and the importance around land and water conservation.

The highlight of the trip was the llama hike that the group took. It was a 3 mile hike up McCrystal Creek to the archeological site of the McCrystal Place, where the McCrystal family once lived and ranched in the Valle Vidal. The history and importance of watershed management of the area was shared with the students. There was discussion around why the Valle Vidal Coalition was put into place and the work that it did back in 2006 preventing oil and gas development in the area.

To learn more about our Wilderness Outdoor Connection Leadership Program, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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