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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

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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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