October 16, 2020

Luján, Haaland Introduce Legislation to Establish the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness

Nambé, N.M. – Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, and Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to establish the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness (CDLO) within the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in January.

The CLDO is a caldera located within the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument that has cultural importance for sustaining hunting, herb gathering, firewood collection, and other traditional uses. The area is also a wildlife corridor that provides sanctuary for a wide range of wildlife species. Wilderness status will provide the highest level of protection to ensure that the CLDO is maintained and enjoyed by generations to come. 

A map of the proposed wilderness area is available here.

“I’m proud to have worked with Senators Udall and Heinrich and community leaders across Northern New Mexico to introduce legislation to establish the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness and protect these cherished lands for generations to come. In New Mexico, our public lands play a crucial role in our lives for traditional and recreational uses, and the CLDO holds significant importance for many New Mexicans, including Tribal communities,” said Luján. “I look forward to leading the effort in the House to move this legislation forward, and I will always stand up for our lands, water, and wildlife corridors.” 

“As New Mexicans, we truly understand how to honor and respect the land, but often times profit-driven industries put our way of life and our resources at risk. In my community, we saw mining come in and destroy our water, leaving traces of radiation in the air for years to come. By working to establish the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness, Congressman Ben Ray Luján and I aim to ensure Tribal, acequia, land grant and other communities can continue to practice their traditions and their environmental stewardship that have been passed down through generations,” said Haaland.

The legislation is supported by community leaders, farmers and ranchers, hunters, local elected officials, and environmental and conservation groups.

“Governments and businesses in Taos County united to support the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness bill.  Cerro de la Olla provides beauty and solitude for humans here as well as firewood,  wildlife game harvests, and herbal medicines for many who call the region home.  For wildlife, Cerro de la Olla is a roadless haven in the landscape between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Wilderness Ranges.  Big game animals depend on this mountain for food and shelter, especially during migrations.  Each winter up to 2,000 elk congregate on and around Pot Mountain for forage and for cover.  We all want to see this remarkable volcano protected as wilderness for the benefit of present and future generations,” said Roberta Salazar, Executive Director of Rivers and Birds.

"As the primary inhabitants of the Taos Valley, the Red Willow People commonly known as the Taos Pueblo, have always recognized the sacredness of Cerro de la Olla, whether spiritual in nature or for the life sustaining resources provided. Our people will continually acknowledge this in perpetuity, therefore it is important that, as an entire broader community, we look to protect the sanctity of Cerro de la Olla," said Taos Pueblo War Chief Gary J. Lujan. 

“Generations of ranchers have relied on Cerro de la Olla and the vast grasslands in the region to graze our cattle but it’s also a place that wildlife have long depended on too.  My ranch sits adjacent to this mountain and we have done all we can to restore our own land. Now it is more important than ever that the neighboring wilderness lands in Cerro de la Olla be protected, so that wildlife populations continue to thrive for future generations,” said Eliu Romero, grazing permittee on Cerro de la Olla and private land owner adjacent to Cerro de la Olla.  

“The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is home to some of New Mexico’s wildest lands that serve as a critical sanctuary and corridor for wildlife migration in the northern part of the state,” said Michael Casaus, New Mexico State Director for The Wilderness Society. “Cerro de la Olla needs these added protections to ensure the solitude, scenic vistas, and unspoiled lands are properly taken care of for future generations. Representatives Luján and Haaland, along with our senators, have heard the call and recognize the need to do all we can to protect our last remaining wilderness areas. At a time when our country is so divided, it’s heartening to see the local community come together to protect a place that carries such deep historical, environmental, recreational and cultural importance.”

Press Contact

Adán Serna (202) 225-6190