Public News Service-NM: March 31, 2011
‘El Norte’ Protection Rises Again in DC

Original Announcement:

TAOS, N.M. – A bill to protect wild lands near the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico was reintroduced this week by retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. The Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act mirrors a previous bill.

John Olivas, owner of JACO outfitters and a Mora County commissioner, says the bill would fill a gap in protection for an area around Taos that has become the epicenter of New Mexico’s growing ecotourism industry.

“There’s a chain of protected areas like the Valle Vidal, Latir Wilderness, Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area, the Pecos Wilderness. This would just be one more jewel in northern New Mexico that helps protect public land.”

Oscar Simpson, vice chair of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in New Mexico, says preserving key areas for wildlife and recreation is a vital part of the local economic base.

“Wildlife viewing, recreation, and hunting and fishing – they all tie in with making sure that we’ve got a sustainable ecosystem, but also have an economic engine that supports the local economy.”

Simpson says the areas that would be protected include some critical habitat for elk, deer and antelope.

The bill would protect about 236,000 acres of public land in Taos and Rio Arriba counties, and preserve traditional uses of the land that are part of the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, both D-N.M., have introduced a companion bill in the House.

Eric Mack, Public News Service – NM

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