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New Mexico Celebrates “Great Outdoors Week”

For Immediate Release
August 23, 2011

Contact:  NATHAN NEWCOMER
NEW MEXICO WILDERNESS ALLIANCE, 505-250-4225

New Mexico Celebrates “Great Outdoors Week”
Conservation, Recreation Groups Call on Congress to Protect National Forests and Wilderness

Albuquerque, NM (August 22, 2011) – State Land Commissioner Ray Powell and other elected officials join conservation groups and leaders  from across the country to celebrate America’s Great Outdoors and call on Congress to protect America’s national forests, wilderness and other wild lands.   The week, which runs from August 20 to August 28, will feature a series of outdoor activities that highlight the importance of public lands in New Mexico and nationwide to outdoor recreation, water and wildlife, and local economies.

“New Mexico is known around the world for its natural beauty, air quality which includes the vast terrain we have of unsurpassed quality of mesas, valleys, highest peaks and bountiful lakes allowing folks to hunt, hike, ski, boat and enjoy recreational activities under the New Mexico sun,” said State Land Commissioner, Ray Powell.

As part of the celebration, State Land Commissioner, Ray Powell, County Commissioner John Olivas and other leaders issued proclamations and statements that echoed President Theodore Roosevelt’s definition of a good citizen as one who pulls his own weight by “calling upon the residents to observe and participate in this week with appreciation for America’s immeasurable public lands.”

Great Outdoors Week comes as Congress is considering legislation that would open up more than 60 million acres of national forest roadless tracts and Wilderness Study Areas – an area the size of Wyoming – to new development. The measure is only one of multiple attempts by lawmakers in Washington, DC to undo fundamental environmental protections for clean air, clean water, endangered species and public lands. 

“With more than half of our public lands already open to full-scale development, and less than three percent of New Mexico’s wild lands permanently protected, we call on our leaders to give meaningful protection to the rest so that they can be enjoyed by future generations,” said Nathan Newcomer, Associate Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates there were more than 173 million recreation visits to U.S. Forest System lands in 2009, with more than 57 percent of those visits for activities such as hiking, mountain biking and fishing. More than two-thirds of Americans participate in outdoor recreation activities annually on our public lands – including hiking, biking, camping, climbing, kayaking, fishing, canoeing and snowshoeing – contributing $730 billion to the U.S. economy and $3.8 billion annually to New Mexico’s economy.

“New Mexico’s Great Outdoor’s are truly a priceless treasure, and I hope this week’s activities will encourage New Mexican’s of all ages to explore our public lands and perhaps try out a new outdoor recreational activity,” said Mora County Commissioner, John Olivas. “I also hope many will be inspired to help protect our natural resources, which is not only critical for the health of the environment, but also for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Read some of the proclamations and messages for New Mexico’s Great Outdoors Week:

State Land Office Message on Great Outdoors Week

Questa Proclamation

More County Resolution

Press Release: Local Sportsmen and Back Country Horsemen Organizations Call for Protection of Wilderness

For Immediate Release
Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Contact: Jim Bates, Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen Vice President
Phone: 575-644-7751
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact: Don Patterson, Back Country Horsemen of America, Lower Rio Grande Chapter
Phone: 575-649-5584
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Local Sportsmen and Back Country Horsemen Organizations Call for Protection of Wilderness

For Immediate Release: May 18, 2011

backcountry horsemn NM logo

With the introduction of the Organ Mountains/ Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act today in Congress, local sporting and horse riding organizations are calling for the final protection of Doña Ana County’s wild lands.

“We are thrilled to see Senators Bingaman and Udall renew our community’s efforts to permanently protect our natural treasures, like the Organ Mountains and Broad Canyon.  Efforts to protect these places have been going on for over 30 years.  Its time we get on with it, and pass this bill now for the future of Doña Ana County,” stated Don Patterson, Vice-President of the Lower Rio Grande Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of America.

DAC sportsmen logo 222x250“Sportsmen applaud the tremendous leadership of Senators Bingaman and Udall.  With the rapid loss of open space and high quality habitat, it’s so important that we secure the natural treasures that are left. We need to do this for our heritage, our families, our wildlife, and for our future.  This legislation is very well thought out, and we are proud to support it,” stated Jim Bates, Vice President of the Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen.

CONTACT :

Jim Bates, Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen Vice President: (575) 644-7751 – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Don Patterson, Back Country Horsemen of America, Lower Rio Grande Chapter: (575) 649-5584 – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Press Release: Hispano, Green Chambers of Commerce Applaud Reintroduction of Wilderness Protection Bill

For Immediate Release
Date: Thursday, May 19, 2011

Contact: Gabe Vasquez, Executive Director, Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces
Phone: 575-532-9255
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact: Elisa Cundiff, Executive Director Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce
Phone: 575-649-7694
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hispano, Green Chambers of Commerce Applaud Reintroduction of Wilderness Protection Bill

Las Cruces, N.M. – The Las Cruces Hispano and Green Chambers of Commerce joined today to applaud the reintroduction of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act – now known as the Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act – into Congress.

The Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, seeks to create wilderness and conservation areas in Doña Ana County that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks and foothills of the Organ Mountains, as well as the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.

“This legislation will be a tremendous asset in our ability to recruit good companies and jobs to Doña Ana County,” said John Munoz, President of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces. “Entrepreneurs want to live in an area with a high quality of life for them and their families. Protecting Doña Ana County’s incredible wilderness areas will play an important role in securing our quality of life and our economic future.”

When the bill was introduced during the last session of Congress, the bill was given a unanimous “voice vote” approval, clearing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Both Bingaman and U.S. Sen. Tom Udall were sponsors of the bill.

“Numerous studies have shown that communities with protected lands nearby have higher than average personal income growth and job creation. The reason is simple – people are attracted to the high quality of life associated with beautiful views, undisturbed wild lands, recreation, cultural and historical landmarks, clean air and water, and diverse wildlife. If passed by Congress, this legislation will be a boost to businesses in Doña Ana County, creating more jobs in the recreation and tourism industries and continuing to attract people who want to live and work here. We can’t thank Senators Bingaman and Udall enough for their efforts.” said Renee Frank, President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce.

Much of the wilderness area targeted for protection by the new legislation has been managed as a “Wilderness Study Area,” a Bureau of Land Management designation, since the 1980s when the Reagan Administration set it aside for protected status. If passed, the bill would create about 241,400 acres of wilderness and 99,150 acres of National Conservation Area (NCA). These areas would then be managed in ways that protect the landscape and environment from development while preserving existing uses – such as hunting, hiking and grazing.

About the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces: The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces, through its diverse membership, advocates for business growth in the community and promotes Las Cruces and Hispanic business owners through economic development, education, community service, and cultural awareness. The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces was initiated in 1992 as the Hispano Chamber of Doña Ana County, and in 1994 incorporated as The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces. The original founders consisted of a group of businesspersons interested in developing a support organization for small, Hispanic businesses.

About the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce: The Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, a chapter of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, is a network of businesses dedicated to building a healthy, vibrant, and diverse local economy in Las Cruces and the surrounding areas. The mission of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce is to foster the success of the local economy and to promote businesses committed to environmental and social responsibility.

 

Dona Ana County Wilderness Bill Reintroduced!

For Immediate Release
Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Contact: The Office of Senator Jeff Bingaman
Phone: 1-800-443-8658

Contact: The Office of Senator Tom Udall
Phone: (202) 224-6621

From the Offices of Senator Jeff Bingaman and Senator Tom Udall

BINGAMAN & UDALL RENEW EFFORT TO PROTECT ORGAN MOUNTAINS WHILE IMPROVING BORDER SECURITY

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today renewed their push to protect the scenic landscape of the Organ Mountains in Doña Ana County.

The legislation, called the Organ Mountains – Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act (S. 1024), creates wilderness and conservation areas in the county that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.  A map of the proposal can be found here.

Much of the area has been managed as a “Wilderness Study Area” since the 1980s when the Reagan administration first set it aside for protected status.  It was later recommended by the George H.W. Bush administration and then-Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan to be elevated to full wilderness status.

The legislation would bring President Bush’s recommendations to fruition by creating 241,000 acres of wilderness and 100,000 acres of National Conservation Area (NCA).  These areas would be managed in ways that protect the landscape from development while preserving current uses – such as hunting and grazing.

As before, the bill also contains the modifications developed with the Border Patrol to enhance the flexibility of Border Patrol and law enforcement to operate in the border area above and beyond existing law.  Because of the way the West Potrillos Wilderness Study Area boundary was originally drawn by the Reagan Administration, the Border Patrol has a buffer of only 1/3 of a mile from the international border and is currently limited in its ability to conduct routine vehicle patrols north of Highway 9.

The bill introduced today expands this buffer to a total of 5 miles – 3 miles of non-wilderness buffer area and an additional 2-mile “Restricted Use Area.”  This area would prohibit motorized access by the general public, but it will permit the Border Patrol to conduct routine patrols and construct communication and surveillance infrastructure as it would on regular multiple-use land.  The bill proposes to un-designate over 30,000 acres of land currently designated as wilderness study area.  Here is a link to maps that show the current Wilderness Study Area as compared to the new proposal.

In addition to the nearly five mile buffer, the new proposal also provides an east-west route for Border Patrol to travel between the Potrillo Mountains Wilderness.  And it underscores current law by expressly stating that the wilderness designation does not affect Border Patrol’s ability to conduct overflights above the wilderness areas or other border security activities in the wilderness areas, including the use of motorized vehicles while in pursuit of a suspect. The commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who oversees Border Patrol, wrote a letter last year in strong support of the strengthened proposal.  In the letter Commissioner Alan Bersin states that the bill, as modified, “would significantly enhance the flexibility of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to operate in this border area.”

“While illegal activity is very low near the Potrillo Mountains because of the rough terrain, I remain convinced the 1/3-mile buffer is insufficient for the Border Patrol and law enforcement to adequately operate in this border area,” Bingaman said.  “This bill not only enhances our border security flexibility in the area, it also benefits the quality of life in the region by protecting its iconic landscapes.”

“This bill strikes the right balance between securing our border and protecting treasured landscapes like the Organ Mountains for generations to come,” Udall said. “I’m proud to once again join with Senator Bingaman in introducing this important legislation.”

In the 111th Congress, the bill received a hearing before Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee both in Washington D.C. as well as at a field hearing in Las Cruces.  The measure was then approved unanimously last year by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but was not considered by the full Senate in the 111th Congress.

Introducing the bill today will begin the process anew in the 112th Congress.

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