from the NEW MEXICO NEWS CONNECTION - A statewide news service for New Mexico
Taos - Multiple bills currently introduced in Congress include protections for wilderness in Northern New Mexico, and now a handful of groups is coming together to try and preserve an area around the state's most important river.
Things could be getting 'wild' in New Mexico - or staying that way, at least. Proposals to preserve the Sabinoso (Sa-been-oh-so) Wilderness near Las Vegas have been introduced in Congress, and now a number of groups is coming together to try and hammer out a plan to also preserve a large swath of public land around the Rio Grande in Taos and Rio Arriba counties. Jim O'Donnell with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance in Taos says there's no immediate threat to the proposed El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area like there was with oil and gas development in the Valle Vidal, "...and that's the point. We don't want another thing that's going to be so divisive and cost the community so much money to fight off. Let's be proactive and look ahead."
A bill to protect the area is currently being prepared for introduction in the Senate. O'Donnell says Governor Richardson tried to create a similar designation when he was a Congressman in the 1990s. The measure didn't pass, and nearly half of the land has been sold-off since.
O'Donnell says many people might look at the area as empty land, but he says there's much more than what you see from the few highways nearby, "First of all you've got the river - that's one of our most significant resources in the Western United States, much less just Taos County. And a lot of what you see from the car is sagebrush, but as you get further into that area, you have these beautiful remnant grasslands that harken back to what the Spanish may have found when they first came into the area."
An example of a bill that would include preserving the Sabinoso Wilderness is HR 5610, co-sponsored by Tom Udall. For more on the Sabinoso wilderness area go to http://www.nmwild.org/campaigns/sabinoso