Our Work

Erminio Martinez for the Taos News

My family has lived in the Taos area for eight generations. We have a long history of raising cattle in the Columbine Hondo. So I would like nothing better than to see my grandchildren and their children be able to live and work in this region, like our previous generations have.

I am grateful that Congress has answered the request from ranchers like me to preserve Columbine Hondo. Just a few weeks ago, Congress voted to protect roughly 45,000 acres of public land in the Columbine Hondo as wilderness. The president signed that bill into law on Dec. 19.

What this means is our traditional way of life can continue without the risk of seeing these lands carved up for mining, timber harvesting, or other unnecessary development.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, and Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham deserve praise for being champions of this cause. They have worked with our community for many years to safeguard the Columbine-Hondo. Their leadership has been essential to the success of this effort.

It’s telling that in a time where Congress can hardly agree on anything, they came together in a bipartisan way and voted to ensure that this land in our Sangre de Cristo Mountains should be preserved as wilderness. That means these lands will remain available for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations of Americans. It is also telling that Columbine-Hondo was protected during the same year the nation came together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act – a law that was dreamed up right here in New Mexico and still holds special meaning for those of us who call the Land of Enchantment home.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains offer more than agricultural benefits. The lands include the headwaters of the Red River and the Río Hondo, so protecting this essential watershed protects our water quality and gives us a sustainable supply of clean drinking water locally and downstream for the rest of the state. These rivers are key tributaries to the upper Río Grande.

Columbine Hondo also offers important habitat for our native plants and for wildlife such as the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, bighorn sheep, pine marten, black bear, deer, and elk. That’s one of the reasons why these lands attract visitors from across New Mexico and from across the U.S. who appreciate these mountains for hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing.

Of course, visitors to Columbine-Hondo provide our local economy with tourism dollars and tax revenue on top of everything else. The wilderness protection will give businesses in our community the ability to plan and invest in this region knowing that they can count on the permanent preservation of these lands.

Support for the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act runs deep. Our local business owners, acequia parciantes, Native American Tribes, mountain bikers, veterans, and conservationists support it. Designating the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Area represents many years of meeting and collaborating and working to find common ground in our community to protect lands that we all treasure.

While many things about New Mexico have changed, here is an example of a land with a wealth of traditions that can be preserved the way they are. The community support and collaboration for Columbine Hondo mirrors the efforts surrounding the designation of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. And as our state faces more seasons of drought, we recognize that we must look for new opportunities to safeguard our precious land and waters in Northern New Mexico, like the roadless areas surrounding the Pecos Wilderness.

Our community’s culture and way of life are bound to the land and water in these mountains. We want our children to grow up with a shared appreciation for the land with clean air to breath and clean water to drink. Congratulations to the community for ensuring that we can preserve this tradition.

http://www.taosnews.com/opinion/article_4bc3ce3a-b308-11e4-8c56-db20be8b3713.html

Search

NM Wild Supporters

Wilderness Protection Campaigns

  • Rio Grande del Norte

    Rio Grande del Norte The Rio Grande del Norte has shaped the lives of the people who have lived and visited the area for so many generations. Read More
  • Organ Mountains

    Organ Mountains The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument protects a New Mexico legacy spanning Pre-American, New Mexican, and American history. Read More
  • Pecos Wilderness

    The Pecos Wilderness, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, encompasses 223,637 acres spanning the Carson and Santa Fe national forests in northeastern New Mexico, and is the source of the Read More
  • Gila Campaign

    Gila Campaign The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has been busy working on many fronts in and around the Gila Wilderness, the birthplace of the wilderness protection movement and our state’s largest wilderness. Read More
  • Victories

    Victories The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has had several major victories since the organization was founded in 1997. Read more about our conservation victories below. Read More
  • Outreach and Education

    Outreach and Education In 2013, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance launched a pilot Wilderness Education project to test a model of environmental education. We tested a three-tiered approach for environmental education that begins in Read More
  • 1
×
Support New Mexico Wilderness Alliance