Rio Grande del Norte Legislation

Recently introduced federal legislation, if passed by both houses of Congress, would establish a 236,000-acre conservation area on public lands in Taos and Río Arriba counties, a 13,420-acre “Cerro del Yuta Wilderness” in Taos County and an 8,000-acre “Río San Antonio Wilderness” in Río Arriba County. This resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, and co-sponsored by Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-NM (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr1241). A complementary Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, and cosponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s667). The Río Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act has moved through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and been placed on the Senate legislative calendar.

The act introduced in the Senate makes note of the recreational uses of the area, as well as its historic uses and its importance as wildlife habitat. The Senate bill states “The riparian area along the Río Grande provides habitat for brown trout and the federally listed endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The National Conservation Area also contains archaeological, cultural and historic resources relating to the settlement of the region by both indigenous populations and later by early Hispanic settlers.” The House resolution permits grazing in the area, as well as the traditional collection of piñon nuts, firewood and medicinal plants and herbs “for noncommercial, personal use.”

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