from the New Mexico News Connection - A statewide news service for New Mexico
Taos - A bill that would close some "gaps" in New Mexico's wild lands has hit Washington D.C. 'El Norte' is back... in Congress. A bill to protect wild lands in northern New Mexico near the Rio Grande was reintroduced this week by retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman.
The Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act mirrors a previous bill. Local outfitter and a Mora County Commissioner John Olivas says it 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."
The bill would protect about 236-thousand 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 Senator Udall. Representatives Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan have introduced a companion bill in the House.
Oscar Simpson is vice chair of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in New Mexico. He 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 also noted that the areas that would be protected include some critical habitat for elk, deer and antelope.
Eric Mack reporting, email@example.com