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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.


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: Mining Claims in Otero Mesa Nearly Triple

For Immediate Release
Date: May 5, 2011

Contact: Nathan Newcomer, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
Phone: 505-2504225
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact: John Cornell, New Mexico Wildlife Federation
Phone: 575-740-1759


New Mexico Wilderness Alliance* The Wilderness Society*
Southwest Environmental Center* New Mexico Wildlife Federation*

National Wildlife Federation* Sierra Club* The Audubon Society*
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership* Restoring Eden*
Environment New Mexico* Apache Advocates for Otero Mesa*

Mining Claims in Otero Mesa Nearly Triple
Geovic Mining Corp goes from staking 68 mining claims to 183 in the heart of America’s wildest grassland

For nearly a decade, the Coalition for Otero Mesa has worked to safeguard the fragile grasslands, abundant wildlife, and freshwater resources of this rare landscape from full-scale oil and gas drilling. Now, the volatile threat of hardrock mining in the region has grown exponentially.

In January of this year, the Coalition discovered 68 mining claims had been staked in the heart of Otero Mesa, but now that number has nearly tripled to 183 claims. Denver-based Geovic Mining Corp, also majority owner of the largest cobalt-producing operation in the world (based in Cameroon, Africa), is the lead company seeking to mine for zirconium and other rare earth minerals. This type of mining operation could destroy Otero Mesa’s rare and fragile ecosystem, seriously damaging wildlife habitat, soil composition and underground aquifers in the region.

“Otero Mesa is an extraordinarily rare landscape, and if this project moves forward, we could ultimately see the poisoning of our groundwater and the complete removal of the iconic mountains in this beautiful grassland,” said Nathan Newcomer, Associate Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Hardrock mining has absolutely no place in the heart of Otero Mesa.”

On April 21st, Geovic Mining Corp filed for a “Minimal Impact Exploration Permit Application” with the State Mining and Minerals Division. However, obtaining a state mining permit does not necessarily satisfy the obligation to obtain other federal, state and local permits. The company is proposing to drill 10 test wells, with the majority of them on the slopes of the iconic Wind Mountain. All of the pending mining operations are either within proposed wilderness areas or proposed Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).1

“To us Apache, Otero Mesa is our cathedral,” said Ted Rodriguez, speaking on behalf of the Apache Advocates for Otero Mesa. “This hardrock mining plan for so-called “rare earth” minerals has the potential to significantly alter the landscape, but what is more rare than this earth that we N’de hold so sacred?” Mr. Rodriguez is also the Headman of the Mescalero Apache Traditional Elders Council and serves on various tribal committees.

Otero Mesa is an ecologically rich area home to 1,000 native wildlife species, including mule deer, mountain lion, black-tailed prairie dogs, golden and bald eagles, over 200 species of migratory songbirds, and boasts the state’s healthiest and only genetically pure herd of pronghorn antelope. Otero Mesa sits above the Salt Basin Aquifer, which is suspected to be the largest, untapped, fresh water aquifer left in the state of New Mexico. The area also has a long history of cultural use and significance, which includes the estimated 20,000 petroglyphs on Alamo Mountain, historic ruins of the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach, and numerous archeological sites.

“Otero Mesa has been a special place for Southern New Mexico Sportsmen for many generations,” said John Cornell of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Hard rock mining, in any form, would have a serious negative impact on wildlife, habitat and the salt basin aquifer.”

Protection for Otero Mesa enjoys broad support locally and nationally. Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson previously proposed a more than 600,000-acre National Conservation Area and has called on the BLM to conduct a new inventory of the area’s wilderness potential. Resolutions of support have come from the cities of Las Cruces and El Paso, Dona Ana County, and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Tribe. Permanent protection has also been endorsed by former Lt. Governor Diane Denish, former State Secretary of Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Joanna Prukop, and many state representatives, state senators, county commissioners, city councilors, archaeological societies, religious leaders, and local residents. Furthermore, Governor Bill Richardson asked the Obama administration to designate the area a national monument before leaving office.

For more information on the values of Otero Mesa and efforts to ensure its protection for future generations, visit www.oteromesa.org


[1] Citizens participating in the BLM’s preparation of a resource management plan governing millions of acres in Southern New Mexico found portions of Otero Mesa to meet the criteria for designation as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964, and asked the BLM to protect these values. In addition, citizens have proposed protection of the grassland ecosystem through designation of an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, which the agency uses to protect lands with special scientific, natural, cultural and scenic resources. Otero Mesa has been highlighted from acreage encompassing three counties for its incomparable values because it not only merits special protection, but also needs to be safeguarded.

Nathan Newcomer
Associate Director
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
142 Truman St. Suite B1
Albuquerque, NM 87108
505-843-8696, ext. 106
505-843-8697 fax

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


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.

Press Release: Sen. Bingaman Wins Praise for Reintroducing New Mexico Conservation Bill

For Immediate Release
Date: March 30, 2011

Contact: John Olivas, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
Phone: 505-379-5551

Contact: Oscar Simpson, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Phone: 505-917-2134

NMWA letterhead email

Sen. Bingaman Wins Praise for Reintroducing New Mexico Conservation Bill

Rio Grande del Norte NCA/Wilderness Bill Has Broad Local Support

Sportsmen, conservationists, small business owners and others cheered the reintroduction today of a bill to create a nearly 236,000-acre conservation area that will include two new wildernesses.  The Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act will safeguard some of northern New Mexico’s most striking wild places, including the iconic Ute Mountain.

“Senator Bingaman’s proposal will protect and enhance the recreational, ecological, scenic and cultural resources of northern New Mexico’s shared public lands,” said John Olivas, owner of JACO Outfitters and Northern New Mexico director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, “while also recognizing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, protecting the rights of our traditional communities for future generations.”

“New Mexico sportsmen applaud Senator Bingaman for reintroducing this key proposal which will ensure that our hunting and fishing opportunities can be passed down to our children,” said Garrett Veneklasen with Trout Unlimited-New Mexico and chair of the New Mexico Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “These pursuits are vital to the economy of our state, bringing in more than $300 million and supporting some 8,000 jobs.”

The bill will designate nearly 236,000 acres as a National Conservation Area (NCA), including two wilderness areas – the 13,420-acre Cerro del Yuta Wilderness (the iconic Ute Mountain) and the 8,000-acre Rio San Antonio Wilderness. The area contains some of the most spectacular lands and habitat in the state, and is an important migratory flyway for a number of bird species.  Areas within the Rio Grande gorge – which at some places is a half mile wide across and drops to the Rio Grande River 800 feet below – are treasured for hiking, horseback riding and wildlife watching.

“This important conservation bill will ensure that our children and grandchildren will forever be able to experience the land as we have,” said Questa Mayor Esther Garcia.  “Passing down this natural legacy is our inherited responsibility.”

The bill is cosponsored by Senator Tom Udall.  Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich have introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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