April 24, 2018

Luján Introduces Bill to Establish Wilderness Areas Within Río Grande del Norte National Monument

[WASHINGTON, DC]– Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) reintroduced legislation to establish the Cerro del Yuta and Río San Antonio Wilderness Areas within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. Located northwest of Taos, New Mexico, the Cerro del Yuta and Río San Antonio Wilderness Areas would encompass over 21,000 acres of land within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.

“The Río Grande del Norte leaves a lasting impression on all those who visit and all those who benefit from the land. More than that, national parks and public lands help define who we are as a nation,” said Luján. “The decision to designate the Río Grande del Norte a National Monument was strongly supported by the local community and members of the New Mexico Congressional delegation. This legislation would now provide the Cerro del Yuta and Río San Antonio areas the highest level of protection from the Federal government.”

Luján previously introduced the “Cerros del Norte Conservation Act” as the “Río Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act” in the 113th Congress. Similar legislation, sponsored by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), passed the Senate unanimously late last year.

“Designating the Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio areas as wilderness represents a final step toward protecting the Río Grande del Norte's deep heritage, traditional practices and treasured landscapes that Northern New Mexicans and countless visitors have cherished for generations,” Senator Udall said. “Thanks to the strong grassroots network of supporters and the coalition of local stakeholders who have worked for years to protect Río Grande del Norte, our bill passed the Senate unanimously. I applaud Congressman Luján’s leadership in the fight to get this final designation across the finish line in the House.”

“From the tops of Cerro de la Olla and Ute Mountain, to the depths of the Rio Grande Gorge, the Río Grande del Norte is one of the most spectacular places on earth,” said Senator Heinrich. “New Mexico's community-driven monuments permanently protected iconic landscapes that have long been revered. With Representative Luján’s legislation we are one step closer to further completing the vision of the diverse coalition and stakeholders who fought so hard to protect the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. By designating the most rugged and unique wildlife habitat in the Río Grande del Norte as wilderness, we can preserve traditional practices, boost our growing outdoor recreation economy and protect New Mexico's natural heritage for generations to come."

The legislation is strongly supported by local community members, New Mexico Wild, and the Rio Grande del Norte Coalition.

“Wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument safeguards our precious water that is vital to our wellbeing,” said Esther Garcia, President of the San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant in Questa.“Waters that flow to our acequias are protected by the wilderness areas. I want to thank Congressman Luján for preserving our water – the lifeblood of our community.”

Floyd Archuleta, a rancher from El Prado, added, “The livestock on our ranch depend on the water that is safeguarded by the wildest places within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. In addition to sustaining our family, we see hunters, fisherman, and other folks come to experience all that the national monument has to offer, and wilderness plays a big part of that.”

“The current attempts by the Trump administration to abolish, shrink, and harm our national monuments underscores the unique permanent protections that Wilderness designation affords our most special public lands,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild.  “New Mexicans can be proud that the idea of wilderness protection was born here long ago and lives on today.  On behalf of our thousands of members and supporters, we express our deep thanks and appreciation to Congressman Luján for this gift to our future.”

A map of the proposed wilderness areas is available here.