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Join us in celebrating Rio Grande del Norte National Monument!
Dear Friends,
 
President Obama today announced his intent to designate the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico on Monday, protecting some 240,000 acres in Taos County, including the Taos Plateau, Ute Mountain, and the Rio Grande Gorge! Your support has been a critical component to the protection of Rio Grande del Norte (RGDN).
 
For more than six years, NM Wild has been working to permanently protect this northern New Mexico landscape. With the president's action on Monday, 236,000 acres in Taos County including the Taos Plateau, Ute Mountain and the Rio Grande Gorge, will be protected. 
 
“We are thrilled that President Obama will use his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate Rio Grande del Norte as a protected area, keeping it free of development,” said John Olivas, Traditional Community Organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Many generations have enjoyed and lived off this landscape, and today President Obama has ensured the local community that this special place will stay as it is for our children, grandchildren, and those who follow.”
 
The Rio Grande River that encompasses the RGDN area was protected in 1968 under the National Wild and Scenic River System and this new layer of protection as a National Monument adds security to the land surrounding the river. The designation also safeguards  hunting, fishing, grazing, wood gathering, and herb/piñon gathering.   
 
Over the last two decades, supporters—including grazing permittees, Taos Pueblo leadership, land grant heirs, acequia parciantes and mayordomos, local businesses, elected officials and a host of individual supporters—have urged the New Mexico federal delegation to move forward to protect this landscape as a legislative National Conservation Area. On Monday, under the authority of the Antiquities Act, President Obama will make Rio Grande del Norte a protected landscape. 
On December 15, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Taos County and held a town hall event to seek input from a standing-room-only group of supporters that unanimously asked Salazar to recommend to President Obama that a Rio Grande del Norte National Monument be created.   
 
“This national monument designation will serve as a fitting legacy to retired Senator Jeff Bingaman, a champion for conservation in New Mexico,” Olivas said.  “He introduced legislation to safeguard this area years ago, and worked diligently with his colleagues to move it through Congress.”  Representative Ben Ray Luján and Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich backed Bingaman’s efforts through the years, in an attempt to preserve the land in its natural state. “We are grateful for the swift action of President Obama to allow us to pass down this land and our traditions to future generations.”
 
Esther Garcia, president of San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant and mayor of the Village of Questa, said the preservation of traditional rights outlined in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is an important feature of the new monument. Mayor Garcia has also been invited to attend the White House ceremony next week. 
 
“Those of us with deep roots here appreciate that this designation will preserve grazing within the national monument area and specifically protects our right to hunt, fish and collect piñon nuts and firewood,” Garcia said. ”It will direct the Bureau of Land Management to protect the cultural, natural and scenic resources in the area, and protects rights granted under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Monument designation ensures that these ancestral lands will remain for future generations to use and enjoy.”
 
Designation as a national monument is broadly backed by Taos County Commission, Taos Village Council, Taos Pueblo, Taos Chamber of Commerce, Taos Green Chamber, Taos Ski Valley, Village of Red River and more than 100 local businesses that recognize the importance monument designation has to local economies. Traditional users of the land such as hunters, fishermen, land grants, acequias, grazing permittees and tribal citizens all support President Obama’s historic move to protect the RGDN.    
 
 

 
The southern New Mexico community cheered the announcement that Rio Grande del Norte will be protected as a national monument designation, while also urging similar action for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County. Las Cruces Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Thomas pointed out that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region enjoys overwhelming support from local businesses, sportsmen, cultural organizations and local governments.  
 
“Thank you for announcing that the Rio Grande del Norte will soon become a national monument, President Obama. What Rio Grande del Norte is to northern New Mexico, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are to southern New Mexico,” Thomas said. “We hope you will also consider the same protection for southern New Mexico’s iconic Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, where unique Chihuahuan Desert wild lands possess rich American history including the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Apollo Space Mission training sites, and literally thousands of Native American cultural and archeological areas.”   
 
Celebrate with us in Taos this Saturday!
 
Taos Mesa Brewing
Saturday, March 23, from 5-7 p.m.

Join the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance for a special event in Taos with live music, handcrafted beer, expert speakers and family fun in the high desert! We'll be talking about our latest land protection campaigns and celebrating the Rio Grande del Norte success!

Thanks to Taos Mesa Brewing for donating $1 from every Wild Amber Ale sold to NM Wild (all day long)! FAMILY FREE event from 5-7 p.m. Boris and the Saltlicks play high desert psychedelic twang at 8 p.m. ($5 cover). Check out this solar powered venue at www.taosmesabrewing.com.
Bus wrap in Taos promoting Rio Grande del Norte

"All in favor." Meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in Taos, December 2012.

John Olivas and son along the Rio Grande with Roberta Salazar of Rivers and Birds. Photo: Jim Mathews.

IT WAS YOU!
 
...who helped us rally up enough support to make permanent protection for the stunning Rio Grande del Norte happen. Please help us with our other important campaigns by donating online today.
 
Timeline of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance's involvement
 
2007: NM Wild staff member Jim O’Donnell starts work on the Rio Grande del Norte campaign.
 
June 2007: Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signs letter of support for the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area.
 
2008: NM Wild Traditional Community Organizer John Olivas begins working on the campaign. Olivas quickly gains support of the Northern New Mexico land grant community, which all starts in the living room of Esther Garcia.* 
 
June 2008: Land Grant of San Antonio del Rio Colorado signs a resolution of support.

April 2009: Senator Bingaman introduces El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area legislation into the 111th Congress (co-sponsored by Senator Tom Udall).

May 2009: Taos Chamber of Commerce and the Mora Valley Chambers of Commerce sign unanimous resolutions of support for El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area legislation.

May 2009: Taos County Commission passes resolution in support or El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area.

May 2010: Congressman Lujan introduces legislation for Rio Grande del Norte NCA and Wilderness (cosponsored by Representative Martin Heinrich) into the House of Representatives on May 18, 2010.

August 2010: NM Wild arranges for a flyover of the proposal area with media members from the Santa Fe New Mexican, a freelance writer, a member of NM Wild’s WOCLP** program and a Santa Fe County Commissioner. An additional flyover is conducted later that month and includes staff from Congressman Lujan and Senators Bingaman and Udall, and Taos County elected officials.

March 2011: Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area legislation is re-introduced into the 112th Congress in both the House (H.R. 1241) and Senate (S.667). 

March 2012: The coalition pivoted the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area legislative track to an administrative Rio Grande del Norte National Monument track seeking designation through executive order under the 1906 Antiquities Act due to the broken 112th Congress that failed to pass any new Wilderness Areas in the United States since 1966.

May 2012: Taos County Commission passes an updated resolution of support for the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument asking President Barack Obama to utilize his executive powers to designate the area as a protected landscape.

June 2012: Taos County Chamber of Commerce passes an updated resolution of support for the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.
 
January 2013: Pueblo of Taos signs resolution of support.

February 2013: Senators Heinrich and Udall and Representative Luján reintroduce a bill to establish the Río Grande del Norte Conservation Area to protect more than 240,000 acres of BLM-managed lands in Taos and Rio Arriba Counties.
 
More than 3,000 letters of support have been collected by NM Wild for RGDN.

*Garcia is an 11th generation New Mexican who has been very active in the northern New Mexico community. She is the Chairwoman of the Board of San Antonio Del Rio Colorado Land Grant, and is Commissioner for the Cabresto Lake Irrigation Community Ditch Association and is very active with the New Mexico Acequia Association. She is currently the Mayor of Questa. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance would like to thank Garcia for all that she has done to support our efforts for Rio Grande del Norte.
 

** Olivas started the Wilderness Outdoor Connection Leadership Program (WOCLP) to work with youth in Mora and Questa in May 2008. The program began to help foster the next generation of conservation advocates in northern New Mexico. Students assisted in obtaining skills around grass roots organizing, working with federal delegation and their staff to create federal law and visited the campaign area, specifically Ute Mountain, Wild Rivers Recreation Area and the Rio Grande Gorge. 


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