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2012

  • Las Cruces Sun-News
    10/25/12

    WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall asked President Obama to consider designating two special areas in New Mexico — already managed by the Bureau of Land Management — for National Monument status.

    The senators are the sponsors of legislation that would elevate these two places — the Rio Grande Gorge and adjacent Taos Plateau, and the Organ Mountains and other important public lands in Doña Ana County — to National Conservation Areas/Wilderness Areas.

    In a letter to the president Thursday, the senators acknowledged that it has been difficult to pass legislation in this Congress and it is unclear whether the logjam will be broken in the lame-duck session. Given this uncertainty, they asked the president to consider exercising his authority to establish National Monuments — authority granted to presidents by Congress in the Antiquities Act.

    The senators are also the sponsors of legislation — called the Organ Mountains Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act— which seeks to create wilderness and conservation areas in Doña Ana County that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.

    The legislation would bring to fruition President George H.W. Bush’s recommendation to protect sensitive landscapes in the county by creating 241,000 acres of wilderness and 100,000 acres of National Conservation Area (NCA). Under the legislation, these areas would be managed in ways that protect the landscape from development while preserving current uses — such as hunting and grazing.

    Much of the area has been managed as a “Wilderness Study Area” since the 1980s when the Reagan administration first set it aside for protected status. It was later recommended by the George H.W. Bush administration and then-Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan to be elevated to full wilderness status. A National Monument designation would still allow Congress to designate lands with the Monument as wilderness in the future.

    Other National Monuments in the state designated by past presidents include Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Bandelier, Chaco Canyon, El Morro, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Gran Quivira, Capulin Volcano, Aztec Ruins, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.

    In their letter to the president, the senators point to the strong support behind both of the bills.

  • Las Cruces Sun-News
    10/25/12

    WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall asked President Obama to consider designating two special areas in New Mexico — already managed by the Bureau of Land Management — for National Monument status.

    The senators are the sponsors of legislation that would elevate these two places — the Rio Grande Gorge and adjacent Taos Plateau, and the Organ Mountains and other important public lands in Doña Ana County — to National Conservation Areas/Wilderness Areas.

    In a letter to the president Thursday, the senators acknowledged that it has been difficult to pass legislation in this Congress and it is unclear whether the logjam will be broken in the lame-duck session. Given this uncertainty, they asked the president to consider exercising his authority to establish National Monuments — authority granted to presidents by Congress in the Antiquities Act.

    The senators are also the sponsors of legislation — called the Organ Mountains Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act— which seeks to create wilderness and conservation areas in Doña Ana County that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.

    The legislation would bring to fruition President George H.W. Bush’s recommendation to protect sensitive landscapes in the county by creating 241,000 acres of wilderness and 100,000 acres of National Conservation Area (NCA). Under the legislation, these areas would be managed in ways that protect the landscape from development while preserving current uses — such as hunting and grazing.

    Much of the area has been managed as a “Wilderness Study Area” since the 1980s when the Reagan administration first set it aside for protected status. It was later recommended by the George H.W. Bush administration and then-Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan to be elevated to full wilderness status. A National Monument designation would still allow Congress to designate lands with the Monument as wilderness in the future.

    Other National Monuments in the state designated by past presidents include Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Bandelier, Chaco Canyon, El Morro, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Gran Quivira, Capulin Volcano, Aztec Ruins, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.

    In their letter to the president, the senators point to the strong support behind both of the bills.

  • Las Cruces Sun-News
    10/25/12

    WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall asked President Obama to consider designating two special areas in New Mexico — already managed by the Bureau of Land Management — for National Monument status.

    The senators are the sponsors of legislation that would elevate these two places — the Rio Grande Gorge and adjacent Taos Plateau, and the Organ Mountains and other important public lands in Doña Ana County — to National Conservation Areas/Wilderness Areas.

    In a letter to the president Thursday, the senators acknowledged that it has been difficult to pass legislation in this Congress and it is unclear whether the logjam will be broken in the lame-duck session. Given this uncertainty, they asked the president to consider exercising his authority to establish National Monuments — authority granted to presidents by Congress in the Antiquities Act.

    The senators are also the sponsors of legislation — called the Organ Mountains Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act— which seeks to create wilderness and conservation areas in Doña Ana County that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.

    The legislation would bring to fruition President George H.W. Bush’s recommendation to protect sensitive landscapes in the county by creating 241,000 acres of wilderness and 100,000 acres of National Conservation Area (NCA). Under the legislation, these areas would be managed in ways that protect the landscape from development while preserving current uses — such as hunting and grazing.

    Much of the area has been managed as a “Wilderness Study Area” since the 1980s when the Reagan administration first set it aside for protected status. It was later recommended by the George H.W. Bush administration and then-Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan to be elevated to full wilderness status. A National Monument designation would still allow Congress to designate lands with the Monument as wilderness in the future.

    Other National Monuments in the state designated by past presidents include Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Bandelier, Chaco Canyon, El Morro, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Gran Quivira, Capulin Volcano, Aztec Ruins, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.

    In their letter to the president, the senators point to the strong support behind both of the bills.

  • By Matthew van Buren
    Nov. 1, 2012
    The Taos News

    Citing broad local support and uncertainty about Congressional action, U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, D-NM, are calling on President Obama to designate two national monuments in New Mexico — including one to protect the Río Grande Corridor.

    According to a joint press release, Bingaman and Udall hope Obama will use his powers under the Antiquities Act to create national monuments around the Gorge and public lands, including the Organ Mountains, in Doña Ana County.

    “National Monument status, similar to a National Conservation Area designation, would allow these lands and their important wildlife habitat to be protected for the future, while preserving existing uses such as hunting, fishing and grazing,” the release states. “Other National Monuments in the state designated by past presidents include Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Bandalier, Chaco Canyon, Gila Cliff Dwellings and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks — all of which have provided significant economic and educational contributions to New Mexico.”

    Bingaman introduced, and Udall cosponsored, the Río Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act at the end of March 2011. The conservation area would comprise about 235,980 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), including two new wildernesses: the 13,420-acre Cerro del Yuta around Ute Mountain in Taos County and the 8,000-acre Río San Antonio Wilderness around San Antonio Mountain in Río Arriba County.

    Bingaman has been trying to pass the legislation before he retires at the end of the year. And, according to the letter Bingaman and Udall sent to Obama, Oct. 25, they will “continue to work to advance legislation in the Senate to conserve these important areas in New Mexico, but in the absence of any certainty about the passage of legislation, we believe you should work with local communities to explore how a National Monument designation would protect the archaeological and cultural resources in these two regions. Since the legislation has been carefully crafted to secure broad support, we request that you carefully consider these proposals.”

    Local support

    Local conservation groups have been working to bring attention to and otherwise advance the Río Grande del Norte legislation.

    Trout Unlimited’s Garrett VeneKlasen said the Río Grande del Norte contains the state’s “finest and most iconic wild trout fishery,” and national monument status for the area would make economic sense.

    “Permanent protection of this area will ensure that this one-of-a-kind angling heirloom will remain pristine and viable for generations to come,” he said. “New Mexicans’ overwhelming support for protecting the Río Grande del Norte should not be thwarted by a dysfunctional Congress.”

    According to information from the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, a monument designation for the Río Grande del Norte could provide the local economy with a $15 million boost and create 279 jobs — information shown by a new independent economic study by BBC Research and Consulting.

    “A public land designation, such as a national monument, may signal enhanced quality of a potential visitor experience, substantially increasing visitation,” the study states.

    According to the Chamber release, more than 100 local businesses support permanent protection for the area.

    “Protecting Río Grande del Norte as a national monument clearly makes good business sense,” Chamber chairman Brad Malone is quoted as saying. “This study suggests that recognizing the area as a national monument should bring more folks from across the country and around the world here to visit.” Los Ríos River Runners owner Francisco Guevara is also in favor of the measure.

    “In addition to supporting our heritage, the Río Grande is also the lifeline for many small businesses like mine in rural communities throughout New Mexico,” he is quoted as saying. “Recreation-based businesses rely on the Río Grande to support rafting, fishing and hunting trips. These activities also support restaurants, lodges, gas stations, outfitters and guides, in addition to contributing to the local tax base.”

    Outfitter Stuart Wilde, with Wild Earth Llama Adventures, said he supports efforts to protect the Río Grande del Norte area. “It’s great to see that our elected officials are so responsive to our ongoing local efforts and broad-based support to protect the Río Grande Gorge,” he said. “Thanks to Sens. Bingaman and Udall for working to protect New Mexico’s special places.”

    Nick Streit, local fly-fishing guide and owner of the Taos Fly Shop, said he doesn’t have faith that Congress will act to protect the Río Grande. He said national monument status would be appropriate for the area, particularly because of the support the idea has locally.

    “Northern New Mexico seems to be 100 percent for this. There’s no opposition,” he said. “Having the Río Grande Corridor protected is of monumental importance for Northern New Mexicans, for our tradition and for our livelihoods, in my case, and for our future generations.”

    The New Mexico Wildlife Federation also supports the call for the national monuments, touting their value to hunters and anglers in an Oct. 26 announcement.

    “Residents of Northern New Mexico have used this area for centuries to feed their families and pass on the hunting tradition,” Taos hunting guide Mark Casias is quoted as saying in the Federation release. “As a national monument, we can be assured that those uses will continue on into the future.”

    ‘The most anti-wilderness Congress in history’

    Río Grande del Norte legislation has been placed on the Senate legislative calendar after moving through the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Hearings regarding the proposed National Conservation Area were held by the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, as well.

    However, despite pending legislation that seeks to protect a number of areas in New Mexico and elsewhere, the Wilderness Society circulated an announcement calling the current Congress “the most anti-wilderness Congress in history.” According to information from New Mexico State Director Michael Casaus, if it fails to take action on any of the wilderness bills that have been introduced, this will be the first Congress since 1966 to fail to protect a single acre of wilderness.

    “The House in particular has refused to allow a vote on a single wilderness bill, blocking nearly two dozen wilderness bills authorized by Democrats and Republicans alike,” the Society’s announcement states.

    The proposal has the support of Taos town and county leaders, as well. County commissioners Nick Jaramillo and Larry Sánchez are quoted as supporting the effort in an Oct. 29 release from the Strategies 360 public relations firm, and the Town Council passed a resolution Oct. 23 that endorses the permanent protection of the Río Grande del Norte.

    The resolution notes the “scenic, environmental, economic, cultural and recreational value to Taos and Río Arriba counties,” as well as the unique nature of the area and its importance as a watershed. Mayor Darren Córdova told The Taos News Tuesday (Oct. 30) he is happy to support the initiative. “It’s something that we all can be proud of here in Northern New Mexico,” he said.

    In Doña Ana County, according to the senators’ press release, Bingaman and Udall propose to protect with national monument status areas including “the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.” Bingaman introduced legislation May 19, 2011, that seeks to create eight new wildernesses, totaling 241,200 acres and ranging in size from 9,600 acres to 125,850 acres, as well as two National Conservation Areas — Desert Peaks, 75,550 acres, and Organ Mountains, 84,000 acres — in Doña Ana County.

    According to a description of the Organs in Robert Julyan’s book “The Mountains of New Mexico,” the elevation ranges from about 4,600-9,000 feet, with ecosystems rising from Chihuahuan desert to Ponderosa pine and isolated Douglas and white fir. The rugged peaks are popular with rock climbers: The mountains got their name because of the “vertically jointed granite, dominating the range’s central portion.”

    “When Governor (Antonio de) Otermín passed by in 1682, he referred to them as Los Organos, for their resemblance to organ pipes,” Julyan wrote.

    In an interview with The Taos News, Casaus said he has “no idea” why wilderness legislation is being held up in Congress.

    “Why wilderness is now becoming a partisan issue is unknown to me,” he said.

    Indeed, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, introduced an act to protect the Organ Mountains in March. The legislation seeks to “conserve, protect and enhance the cultural, traditional, archaeological, natural, ecological, geological, historical, wildlife, livestock, watershed, educational, recreational and scenic resources” of a 58,512-acre area.

    Casaus said there is still hope that this Congress could act.

    “We just hope that they’ll listen to their constituents and pass these very important conservation proposals,” he said.

    In April, Bingaman introduced legislation to give full wilderness designation to the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area, north of Taos. The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; the area was not included in the senators’ request for national monument status.

  • By Matthew van Buren
    Nov. 1, 2012
    The Taos News

    Citing broad local support and uncertainty about Congressional action, U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, D-NM, are calling on President Obama to designate two national monuments in New Mexico — including one to protect the Río Grande Corridor.

    According to a joint press release, Bingaman and Udall hope Obama will use his powers under the Antiquities Act to create national monuments around the Gorge and public lands, including the Organ Mountains, in Doña Ana County.

    “National Monument status, similar to a National Conservation Area designation, would allow these lands and their important wildlife habitat to be protected for the future, while preserving existing uses such as hunting, fishing and grazing,” the release states. “Other National Monuments in the state designated by past presidents include Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Bandalier, Chaco Canyon, Gila Cliff Dwellings and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks — all of which have provided significant economic and educational contributions to New Mexico.”

    Bingaman introduced, and Udall cosponsored, the Río Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act at the end of March 2011. The conservation area would comprise about 235,980 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), including two new wildernesses: the 13,420-acre Cerro del Yuta around Ute Mountain in Taos County and the 8,000-acre Río San Antonio Wilderness around San Antonio Mountain in Río Arriba County.

    Bingaman has been trying to pass the legislation before he retires at the end of the year. And, according to the letter Bingaman and Udall sent to Obama, Oct. 25, they will “continue to work to advance legislation in the Senate to conserve these important areas in New Mexico, but in the absence of any certainty about the passage of legislation, we believe you should work with local communities to explore how a National Monument designation would protect the archaeological and cultural resources in these two regions. Since the legislation has been carefully crafted to secure broad support, we request that you carefully consider these proposals.”

    Local support

    Local conservation groups have been working to bring attention to and otherwise advance the Río Grande del Norte legislation.

    Trout Unlimited’s Garrett VeneKlasen said the Río Grande del Norte contains the state’s “finest and most iconic wild trout fishery,” and national monument status for the area would make economic sense.

    “Permanent protection of this area will ensure that this one-of-a-kind angling heirloom will remain pristine and viable for generations to come,” he said. “New Mexicans’ overwhelming support for protecting the Río Grande del Norte should not be thwarted by a dysfunctional Congress.”

    According to information from the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, a monument designation for the Río Grande del Norte could provide the local economy with a $15 million boost and create 279 jobs — information shown by a new independent economic study by BBC Research and Consulting.

    “A public land designation, such as a national monument, may signal enhanced quality of a potential visitor experience, substantially increasing visitation,” the study states.

    According to the Chamber release, more than 100 local businesses support permanent protection for the area.

    “Protecting Río Grande del Norte as a national monument clearly makes good business sense,” Chamber chairman Brad Malone is quoted as saying. “This study suggests that recognizing the area as a national monument should bring more folks from across the country and around the world here to visit.” Los Ríos River Runners owner Francisco Guevara is also in favor of the measure.

    “In addition to supporting our heritage, the Río Grande is also the lifeline for many small businesses like mine in rural communities throughout New Mexico,” he is quoted as saying. “Recreation-based businesses rely on the Río Grande to support rafting, fishing and hunting trips. These activities also support restaurants, lodges, gas stations, outfitters and guides, in addition to contributing to the local tax base.”

    Outfitter Stuart Wilde, with Wild Earth Llama Adventures, said he supports efforts to protect the Río Grande del Norte area. “It’s great to see that our elected officials are so responsive to our ongoing local efforts and broad-based support to protect the Río Grande Gorge,” he said. “Thanks to Sens. Bingaman and Udall for working to protect New Mexico’s special places.”

    Nick Streit, local fly-fishing guide and owner of the Taos Fly Shop, said he doesn’t have faith that Congress will act to protect the Río Grande. He said national monument status would be appropriate for the area, particularly because of the support the idea has locally.

    “Northern New Mexico seems to be 100 percent for this. There’s no opposition,” he said. “Having the Río Grande Corridor protected is of monumental importance for Northern New Mexicans, for our tradition and for our livelihoods, in my case, and for our future generations.”

    The New Mexico Wildlife Federation also supports the call for the national monuments, touting their value to hunters and anglers in an Oct. 26 announcement.

    “Residents of Northern New Mexico have used this area for centuries to feed their families and pass on the hunting tradition,” Taos hunting guide Mark Casias is quoted as saying in the Federation release. “As a national monument, we can be assured that those uses will continue on into the future.”

    ‘The most anti-wilderness Congress in history’

    Río Grande del Norte legislation has been placed on the Senate legislative calendar after moving through the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Hearings regarding the proposed National Conservation Area were held by the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, as well.

    However, despite pending legislation that seeks to protect a number of areas in New Mexico and elsewhere, the Wilderness Society circulated an announcement calling the current Congress “the most anti-wilderness Congress in history.” According to information from New Mexico State Director Michael Casaus, if it fails to take action on any of the wilderness bills that have been introduced, this will be the first Congress since 1966 to fail to protect a single acre of wilderness.

    “The House in particular has refused to allow a vote on a single wilderness bill, blocking nearly two dozen wilderness bills authorized by Democrats and Republicans alike,” the Society’s announcement states.

    The proposal has the support of Taos town and county leaders, as well. County commissioners Nick Jaramillo and Larry Sánchez are quoted as supporting the effort in an Oct. 29 release from the Strategies 360 public relations firm, and the Town Council passed a resolution Oct. 23 that endorses the permanent protection of the Río Grande del Norte.

    The resolution notes the “scenic, environmental, economic, cultural and recreational value to Taos and Río Arriba counties,” as well as the unique nature of the area and its importance as a watershed. Mayor Darren Córdova told The Taos News Tuesday (Oct. 30) he is happy to support the initiative. “It’s something that we all can be proud of here in Northern New Mexico,” he said.

    In Doña Ana County, according to the senators’ press release, Bingaman and Udall propose to protect with national monument status areas including “the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.” Bingaman introduced legislation May 19, 2011, that seeks to create eight new wildernesses, totaling 241,200 acres and ranging in size from 9,600 acres to 125,850 acres, as well as two National Conservation Areas — Desert Peaks, 75,550 acres, and Organ Mountains, 84,000 acres — in Doña Ana County.

    According to a description of the Organs in Robert Julyan’s book “The Mountains of New Mexico,” the elevation ranges from about 4,600-9,000 feet, with ecosystems rising from Chihuahuan desert to Ponderosa pine and isolated Douglas and white fir. The rugged peaks are popular with rock climbers: The mountains got their name because of the “vertically jointed granite, dominating the range’s central portion.”

    “When Governor (Antonio de) Otermín passed by in 1682, he referred to them as Los Organos, for their resemblance to organ pipes,” Julyan wrote.

    In an interview with The Taos News, Casaus said he has “no idea” why wilderness legislation is being held up in Congress.

    “Why wilderness is now becoming a partisan issue is unknown to me,” he said.

    Indeed, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, introduced an act to protect the Organ Mountains in March. The legislation seeks to “conserve, protect and enhance the cultural, traditional, archaeological, natural, ecological, geological, historical, wildlife, livestock, watershed, educational, recreational and scenic resources” of a 58,512-acre area.

    Casaus said there is still hope that this Congress could act.

    “We just hope that they’ll listen to their constituents and pass these very important conservation proposals,” he said.

    In April, Bingaman introduced legislation to give full wilderness designation to the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area, north of Taos. The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; the area was not included in the senators’ request for national monument status.

  • By Matthew van Buren
    Nov. 1, 2012
    The Taos News

    Citing broad local support and uncertainty about Congressional action, U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, D-NM, are calling on President Obama to designate two national monuments in New Mexico — including one to protect the Río Grande Corridor.

    According to a joint press release, Bingaman and Udall hope Obama will use his powers under the Antiquities Act to create national monuments around the Gorge and public lands, including the Organ Mountains, in Doña Ana County.

    “National Monument status, similar to a National Conservation Area designation, would allow these lands and their important wildlife habitat to be protected for the future, while preserving existing uses such as hunting, fishing and grazing,” the release states. “Other National Monuments in the state designated by past presidents include Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Bandalier, Chaco Canyon, Gila Cliff Dwellings and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks — all of which have provided significant economic and educational contributions to New Mexico.”

    Bingaman introduced, and Udall cosponsored, the Río Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act at the end of March 2011. The conservation area would comprise about 235,980 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), including two new wildernesses: the 13,420-acre Cerro del Yuta around Ute Mountain in Taos County and the 8,000-acre Río San Antonio Wilderness around San Antonio Mountain in Río Arriba County.

    Bingaman has been trying to pass the legislation before he retires at the end of the year. And, according to the letter Bingaman and Udall sent to Obama, Oct. 25, they will “continue to work to advance legislation in the Senate to conserve these important areas in New Mexico, but in the absence of any certainty about the passage of legislation, we believe you should work with local communities to explore how a National Monument designation would protect the archaeological and cultural resources in these two regions. Since the legislation has been carefully crafted to secure broad support, we request that you carefully consider these proposals.”

    Local support

    Local conservation groups have been working to bring attention to and otherwise advance the Río Grande del Norte legislation.

    Trout Unlimited’s Garrett VeneKlasen said the Río Grande del Norte contains the state’s “finest and most iconic wild trout fishery,” and national monument status for the area would make economic sense.

    “Permanent protection of this area will ensure that this one-of-a-kind angling heirloom will remain pristine and viable for generations to come,” he said. “New Mexicans’ overwhelming support for protecting the Río Grande del Norte should not be thwarted by a dysfunctional Congress.”

    According to information from the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, a monument designation for the Río Grande del Norte could provide the local economy with a $15 million boost and create 279 jobs — information shown by a new independent economic study by BBC Research and Consulting.

    “A public land designation, such as a national monument, may signal enhanced quality of a potential visitor experience, substantially increasing visitation,” the study states.

    According to the Chamber release, more than 100 local businesses support permanent protection for the area.

    “Protecting Río Grande del Norte as a national monument clearly makes good business sense,” Chamber chairman Brad Malone is quoted as saying. “This study suggests that recognizing the area as a national monument should bring more folks from across the country and around the world here to visit.” Los Ríos River Runners owner Francisco Guevara is also in favor of the measure.

    “In addition to supporting our heritage, the Río Grande is also the lifeline for many small businesses like mine in rural communities throughout New Mexico,” he is quoted as saying. “Recreation-based businesses rely on the Río Grande to support rafting, fishing and hunting trips. These activities also support restaurants, lodges, gas stations, outfitters and guides, in addition to contributing to the local tax base.”

    Outfitter Stuart Wilde, with Wild Earth Llama Adventures, said he supports efforts to protect the Río Grande del Norte area. “It’s great to see that our elected officials are so responsive to our ongoing local efforts and broad-based support to protect the Río Grande Gorge,” he said. “Thanks to Sens. Bingaman and Udall for working to protect New Mexico’s special places.”

    Nick Streit, local fly-fishing guide and owner of the Taos Fly Shop, said he doesn’t have faith that Congress will act to protect the Río Grande. He said national monument status would be appropriate for the area, particularly because of the support the idea has locally.

    “Northern New Mexico seems to be 100 percent for this. There’s no opposition,” he said. “Having the Río Grande Corridor protected is of monumental importance for Northern New Mexicans, for our tradition and for our livelihoods, in my case, and for our future generations.”

    The New Mexico Wildlife Federation also supports the call for the national monuments, touting their value to hunters and anglers in an Oct. 26 announcement.

    “Residents of Northern New Mexico have used this area for centuries to feed their families and pass on the hunting tradition,” Taos hunting guide Mark Casias is quoted as saying in the Federation release. “As a national monument, we can be assured that those uses will continue on into the future.”

    ‘The most anti-wilderness Congress in history’

    Río Grande del Norte legislation has been placed on the Senate legislative calendar after moving through the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Hearings regarding the proposed National Conservation Area were held by the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, as well.

    However, despite pending legislation that seeks to protect a number of areas in New Mexico and elsewhere, the Wilderness Society circulated an announcement calling the current Congress “the most anti-wilderness Congress in history.” According to information from New Mexico State Director Michael Casaus, if it fails to take action on any of the wilderness bills that have been introduced, this will be the first Congress since 1966 to fail to protect a single acre of wilderness.

    “The House in particular has refused to allow a vote on a single wilderness bill, blocking nearly two dozen wilderness bills authorized by Democrats and Republicans alike,” the Society’s announcement states.

    The proposal has the support of Taos town and county leaders, as well. County commissioners Nick Jaramillo and Larry Sánchez are quoted as supporting the effort in an Oct. 29 release from the Strategies 360 public relations firm, and the Town Council passed a resolution Oct. 23 that endorses the permanent protection of the Río Grande del Norte.

    The resolution notes the “scenic, environmental, economic, cultural and recreational value to Taos and Río Arriba counties,” as well as the unique nature of the area and its importance as a watershed. Mayor Darren Córdova told The Taos News Tuesday (Oct. 30) he is happy to support the initiative. “It’s something that we all can be proud of here in Northern New Mexico,” he said.

    In Doña Ana County, according to the senators’ press release, Bingaman and Udall propose to protect with national monument status areas including “the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.” Bingaman introduced legislation May 19, 2011, that seeks to create eight new wildernesses, totaling 241,200 acres and ranging in size from 9,600 acres to 125,850 acres, as well as two National Conservation Areas — Desert Peaks, 75,550 acres, and Organ Mountains, 84,000 acres — in Doña Ana County.

    According to a description of the Organs in Robert Julyan’s book “The Mountains of New Mexico,” the elevation ranges from about 4,600-9,000 feet, with ecosystems rising from Chihuahuan desert to Ponderosa pine and isolated Douglas and white fir. The rugged peaks are popular with rock climbers: The mountains got their name because of the “vertically jointed granite, dominating the range’s central portion.”

    “When Governor (Antonio de) Otermín passed by in 1682, he referred to them as Los Organos, for their resemblance to organ pipes,” Julyan wrote.

    In an interview with The Taos News, Casaus said he has “no idea” why wilderness legislation is being held up in Congress.

    “Why wilderness is now becoming a partisan issue is unknown to me,” he said.

    Indeed, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, introduced an act to protect the Organ Mountains in March. The legislation seeks to “conserve, protect and enhance the cultural, traditional, archaeological, natural, ecological, geological, historical, wildlife, livestock, watershed, educational, recreational and scenic resources” of a 58,512-acre area.

    Casaus said there is still hope that this Congress could act.

    “We just hope that they’ll listen to their constituents and pass these very important conservation proposals,” he said.

    In April, Bingaman introduced legislation to give full wilderness designation to the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area, north of Taos. The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; the area was not included in the senators’ request for national monument status.

  • Mat McDermott
    treehugger.com
    September 17, 2012

    Shell’s much-protested plans for Arctic oil exploration off Alaska have already come to a halt for the year. After initial technical mishaps, including a ship breaking free of its mooring and potentially running aground, apparently a dome designed to help clean up any potential oil spills was damaged.

    Shell says:

    The time required to repair the dome, along with steps we have taken to protect local whaling operations and to ensure the safety of operations from ice floe movement, have led us to revise our plans for the 2012-2013 exploration program. In order to lay a strong foundation for operations in 2013, we will forgo drilling into hydrocarbon zones this year.

    Greenpeace, which has been leading the charge to protest and hopefully prevent Shell’s Arctic drilling operations, is claiming the halt as a victory.

    “You did it,” Greenpeace’s statement to supporters begins. “For over six months, huge numbers of us have been pressuring Shell to stay out of the Arctic…This morning company bosses announced they were scrapping their oil drilling program for this year. It’s a huge victory for people power.”

    Indirectly, of course—Greenpeace actions have certainly brought attention on Shell that otherwise might not be there. But in any direct way it’s very difficult to say that “people power” really stopped Shell.

    Drilling offshore in Arctic waters off Alaska is technically challenging, to say the least. Conditions are so difficult in fact that the head of the US Coast Guard testified before Congress, prior to Shell being given the go ahead by the Obama administration, saying that should an oil spill occur in icy waters we have no way of cleaning it up. Let that sink in, should an oil spill occur (really, when an oil spill happens…) in icy waters of the Arctic, we really can’t clean it up at all.

  • ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Royal Dutch Shell on Monday was moving its drill ship off a prospect in the Chukchi Sea, a day after drilling began 70 miles off the Alaska coast because sea ice was moving toward the vessel.

    Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith tells The Associated Press that drilling was stopped for safety reasons.

    “As a precautionary measure and in accordance with our approved Chukchi Sea Ice Management Plan, Shell has made the decision to temporarily move off the Burger-A well to avoid potentially encroaching sea ice,” he said by email. “Once the ice moves on, the Noble Discoverer will re-connect to anchors and continue drilling.”

    Shell officials on Sunday were monitoring ice measuring 30 miles long and 12 miles wide about 105 miles away from the drill ship, Smith said by phone.

    “We’re using satellite images, we’re using radar images, we’re also using onsite reconnaissance to watch this ice so there are no surprises,” Smith said.

    The ice varies in thickness, he said, but at its thickest is 25 meters, or about 82 feet. It was moving at 0.5 knots, or less than 1 mph.

    The decision to halt drilling was made Sunday. At noon Monday, the drill ship was detaching from the last of eight massive anchors. Smith said he did not know how far away the ice was at that time.

    The anchors will stay in place.

    “Part of working in ice is having the ability to temporarily relocate,” Smith said. “You never want to stop operations when your crews and your equipment are working smoothly but this is what it means to work safely in the Arctic.”

    Drilling may be delayed by two days or more, he said. The ice, he said, is dynamic. After it passes, changing winds could blow it back.

    “We need as much margin once it moves by as we demand before we start drilling,” he said.

    Drilling had begun at 4:30 a.m. Sunday. Royal Dutch Shell PLC was given permission last month to begin preliminary work on an exploratory well. The company’s oil spill response barge has not been certified but the company was authorized to drill pilot holes that do not descend into oil reservoirs.

    Shell has spent upward of $4.5 billion for Arctic Ocean drilling but had been thwarted from drilling by environmental lawsuits, regulatory requirements and short open-water drilling seasons.

    Shell Alaska vice president Pete Slaiby on Sunday called the beginning of drilling historic. He said it was the first time a drill bit had touched the sea floor in the U.S. Chukchi Sea in more than two decades.

    Drilling is bitterly opposed by environmental groups that say oil companies have not demonstrated they can clean up a spill in ice-choked water. They say a spill of the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico would be catastrophic in a region hammered by climate warming and home to endangered or threatened marine mammals such as bowhead whales, polar bear and walrus.

  • By DANNY HAKIM, The New York Times
    Published: September 30, 2012 

    ALBANY — A few months after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was poised to approve hydraulic fracturing in several struggling New York counties, his administration is reversing course and starting the regulatory process over, garnering praise from environmental groups and stirring anger among industry executives and upstate landowners.
    Related

    Ten days ago, after nearly four years of review by state regulators, the governor bowed to entreaties from environmentalists to conduct another study, this one an examination of potential impacts on public health. Neither the governor nor other state officials have given any indication of how long the study might take.

    Then on Friday, state environmental officials said they would restart the regulatory rule-making process, requiring them to repeat a number of formal steps, including holding a public hearing, and almost certainly pushing a decision into next year.

    The move also means that after already receiving nearly 80,000 public comments, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will be soliciting more input from New Yorkers about hydrofracking, or fracking, as the drilling process for natural gas is known.

    The developments have created a sense in Albany that Mr. Cuomo is consigning fracking to oblivion. The governor has been influenced by the unshakable opposition from a corps of environmentalists and celebrity activists who are concerned about the safety of the water supply. The opponents include a number of people close to the governor, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime environmental activist in New York whose sister is the governor’s ex-wife.

    The fracking issue is the biggest environmental question, and the most polarizing, facing Albany, and New York’s decision is being closely watched nationally, as President Obama and Mitt Romney have both expressed support for increased use of natural gas as a means to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The natural gas industry has been eager to drill in the Marcellus Shale, a deep underground repository that runs through West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Extraction there was too complex and costly until the advent of hydrofracking.

    The debate is politically complex for Mr. Cuomo, who has established a record as a social progressive and a fiscal centrist. Mr. Cuomo has been interested in fracking because of the promise that it could bring jobs to an economically struggling region of the state. The industry has also been a prolific campaign donor, and rejecting fracking would risk Mr. Cuomo’s close relationship with The New York Post, which has strongly advocated for drilling.

    But opposition to fracking has become such a touchstone for liberals that approving it, even in a limited fashion, would undoubtedly alienate some of his most dependable supporters. Anti-fracking protesters have shadowed Mr. Cuomo for months, at his home, his office, and his speaking engagements, and a wide array of celebrities, including Lady Gaga and Yoko Ono, have mobilized to express opposition to the technology.

    “Andrew has a very good political antenna, and we’ve never seen anything like this in terms of grass-roots power,” Mr. Kennedy, whose father was a United States attorney general, said in a telephone interview. “In 30 years, I have not seen anything come close to this, in terms of the mobilization of the grass roots. You’ve got 20,000 people in the state who consider themselves to be anti-frack activists. So I think that’s got to impact the political process all around.”

    The governor appointed Mr. Kennedy, who lives in Westchester County, to an advisory panel on fracking last year, and Mr. Kennedy has been in frequent contact with the governor and his staff about the issue.

    Mr. Kennedy said that he and the governor had discussed the research on fracking, including examinations of how frequently the concrete well casings used in fracking fail, exposing potential toxins. He said they had also discussed a March study from the Colorado School of Public Health that found that people living near fracking sites were more likely to be exposed to harmful air pollutants like benzene and toluene.

    “I’m surprised how long he’s withstood the tide,” Mr. Kennedy said of the governor. “I’m proud that he’s done that. There’s no other governor who’s just said ‘let’s hold off.’ And he’s under, I can tell you, tremendous pressure by the industry and by others.”

    Mr. Cuomo told reporters last week that the commission of yet another study on fracking did not signal an end to the process.

    “We’ve said all along that the decision will be made based on the science, right?” he said. “It was not predetermined, it was not a political position, let’s get the facts, let’s make a decision on the facts. I understand the emotion, I deal with the emotion every day on both sides of the issue, right? So we get the emotion, we get the rhetoric, we get the hyperbole. Let’s get some facts and data and some science, and we’ll make the decision on the science, which is what should be done here.”

    The governor has also said that he sees the additional health study as a way to mitigate future lawsuits.

    Katherine Nadeau, a program director at Environmental Advocates of New York, said talk of an end to fracking was premature.

    “From what I can tell, it doesn’t seem to me that the administration is necessarily backing off, but they are listening to the enormous public concern and outcry and making sure to take this incredibly slowly,” she said.

    But industry and landowner groups are growing increasingly concerned about the shifting tone toward fracking expressed at the Capitol.

    Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, an industry group, said that while some of his members “have made the decision to move on, those that remain are taking Governor Cuomo at his word. But they are also struggling.” 

    “After four years of waiting, any additional unforeseen circumstance, irrespective of its merit or cause, places an extraordinary burden on those fighting to be part of a new New York,” he added, referring to one of Mr. Cuomo’s campaign slogans. 

    Scott Kurkoski, the lead lawyer for the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, a pro-fracking group, was more pointed.

    “The part that concerns us is our governor has said he wants to keep it out of politics and focus on the science, but it looks like politics is really taking over now,” he said, adding that some smaller landowners who were hoping to lease out their land for fracking were facing foreclosure.

    “I don’t think the governor cares about the plight of the upstate New York landowners,” he said.

    In horizontal hydraulic fracturing, large volumes of water and chemicals are injected deep underground at high pressures to break up rock formations and release pockets of natural gas. In the late spring, the administration had drawn up a plan to approve fracking in portions of several New York counties located west of the Catskills, along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support.

    But that plan only hardened opposition.

    “The governor’s office is moving cautiously by floating solutions and listening to the critiques,” Mr. Kennedy said. “You really feel like there’s some democracy happening here.”

    It was not entirely clear what further health impacts would be studied that were not already encompassed by the review process that began in the summer of 2008. In a statement in response to questions, the Department of Environmental Conservation said “health impacts were not overlooked” in the agency’s prior reviews, and “were fully assessed” in a draft environmental impact study that was released last year.

    Joseph Martens, the agency’s commissioner, said last week: “Obviously if there was a public health concern that could not be addressed we would not proceed.”

    Senator Thomas W. Libous, a Binghamton Republican and leading proponent of fracking, said he hoped the new study was “the last major hurdle,” adding, “I want to believe that.”

  • By Stephanie Mencimer
    Tue Apr. 10, 2012
    Mother Jones

    Deer have been a blight on suburbia for a while now, munching their way through tract-housing gardens and making some highways extremely dangerous for motorists, as their populations have exploded. (In DC, where they live in abundant numbers in the city’s biggest park, Rock Creek Park, they’re known by neighbors as rats with antlers.) Deer are also radically changing places like the forests of the Adirondacks by devouring young tree shoots from the storied maples and leaving nothing but beech. But a new study finds that it’s not just deer populations that are wreaking havoc on North American ecosystems. It’s all of the large mammals that graze on plants.

    Moose, elk, and deer populations are at historic highs, according to an extensive review by scientists at Oregon State University. And they’re taking their toll on young trees, reducing biodiversity of forests and contributing to climate change as a result. The leading cause of the disrupted ecosystems is the disappearance of the predators, namely wolves and bears. Researchers found that large mammal densities were six times higher in areas without wolves than in those with them. 

    “These issues do not just affect the United States and a few national parks,” said William Ripple, an OSU professor of forestry and lead author of the study, in a statement. “The data from Canada, Alaska, the Yukon, Northern Europe and Asia are all showing similar results. There’s consistent evidence that large predators help keep populations of large herbivores in check, with positive effects on ecosystem health.”

    Wolf and bear populations have been decimated by humans who fear them for many reasons, but mainly by ranchers who see them as a major threat to valuable livestock. But humans have been far less successful in dealing with the resulting explosion of big game that’s come as a result. I was in my home state of Utah for the past couple of weeks, where it’s pretty common to find lots of deer alongside the highways, where they cause a lot of car accidents. But this time, i was shocked to pass elk and moose among the road kill, the leftovers of what must have been horrible collisions given the animals’ size. My dad told me that the moose had gotten so out of control that they were hanging out in people’s backyards like domesticated animals.

    Hunting, according to the Oregon scientists, is a poor substitute for the efficient wolves and bears, and it doesn’t do much to reduce the herds. (See our slideshow for more on why we need wolves.) In Utah, where hunting is a childhood rite of passage, that’s clearly the case. The moose occasionally get so thick in populated areas that they have to be relocated in other ways.

    Back in 2001, I was driving down Parley’s Canyon from Park City to Salt Lake and saw the wreckage of a helicopter overturned in an icy reservoir. The helicopter had hit a power line while trying to airlift a moose, one of 15 to 20 the state was trying to remove from the canyon to improve highway safety, particularly in the run up to the 2002 Olympics, when the traffic was expected to be especially thick. The helicopter crash killed three people. These sorts of stories make a return of the wolf look like a pretty reasonable alternative.

  • By Stephanie Mencimer
    Tue Apr. 10, 2012
    Mother Jones

    Deer have been a blight on suburbia for a while now, munching their way through tract-housing gardens and making some highways extremely dangerous for motorists, as their populations have exploded. (In DC, where they live in abundant numbers in the city’s biggest park, Rock Creek Park, they’re known by neighbors as rats with antlers.) Deer are also radically changing places like the forests of the Adirondacks by devouring young tree shoots from the storied maples and leaving nothing but beech. But a new study finds that it’s not just deer populations that are wreaking havoc on North American ecosystems. It’s all of the large mammals that graze on plants.

    Moose, elk, and deer populations are at historic highs, according to an extensive review by scientists at Oregon State University. And they’re taking their toll on young trees, reducing biodiversity of forests and contributing to climate change as a result. The leading cause of the disrupted ecosystems is the disappearance of the predators, namely wolves and bears. Researchers found that large mammal densities were six times higher in areas without wolves than in those with them. 

    “These issues do not just affect the United States and a few national parks,” said William Ripple, an OSU professor of forestry and lead author of the study, in a statement. “The data from Canada, Alaska, the Yukon, Northern Europe and Asia are all showing similar results. There’s consistent evidence that large predators help keep populations of large herbivores in check, with positive effects on ecosystem health.”

    Wolf and bear populations have been decimated by humans who fear them for many reasons, but mainly by ranchers who see them as a major threat to valuable livestock. But humans have been far less successful in dealing with the resulting explosion of big game that’s come as a result. I was in my home state of Utah for the past couple of weeks, where it’s pretty common to find lots of deer alongside the highways, where they cause a lot of car accidents. But this time, i was shocked to pass elk and moose among the road kill, the leftovers of what must have been horrible collisions given the animals’ size. My dad told me that the moose had gotten so out of control that they were hanging out in people’s backyards like domesticated animals.

    Hunting, according to the Oregon scientists, is a poor substitute for the efficient wolves and bears, and it doesn’t do much to reduce the herds. (See our slideshow for more on why we need wolves.) In Utah, where hunting is a childhood rite of passage, that’s clearly the case. The moose occasionally get so thick in populated areas that they have to be relocated in other ways.

    Back in 2001, I was driving down Parley’s Canyon from Park City to Salt Lake and saw the wreckage of a helicopter overturned in an icy reservoir. The helicopter had hit a power line while trying to airlift a moose, one of 15 to 20 the state was trying to remove from the canyon to improve highway safety, particularly in the run up to the 2002 Olympics, when the traffic was expected to be especially thick. The helicopter crash killed three people. These sorts of stories make a return of the wolf look like a pretty reasonable alternative.

  • We are currently working with a coalition of conservation groups to provide comments on the Rio Puerco Resource Management Program (RMP), which will have recommendations for management of lands with wilderness characteristics, wilderness study areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), and Special Recreation Management Areas (SRMA). The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comments for the Rio Puerco RMP until November 2.

    The BLM has identified seven areas with wilderness characteristics, including Petaca Pinta, Cimarron Mesa, and Volcano Hill. If officially recognized as Lands With Wilderness Characteristics in the Final EIS, the BLM would be obligated to manage those areas for their wilderness quality.

    Please submit a comments to:

    WITH ATTACHMENTS USE:
    Tom Gow, Director RPFO – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Angel Martinez, RPFO RMP Lead – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    WITHOUT ATTACHMENTS USE: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Suggestions for your comment: SPECIFIC REASONS TO SUPPORT “SJBB-ERMA” DESIGNATION

    SCENERY & RECREATION
    * unique natural sculpture gardens with hoodoos carved from colorful sedimentary layers
    * inspiring grandfather junipers and picturesque bonsai ponderosa
    * a photographer’s and artist’s paradise with incredible hoodoos. colorful layers, pinnacles, buttes and character laden old trees
    * great open-ended, cross country hiking
    * year round accessibility : these areas are good for cold weather recreation when the mountains are snowed in
    * several areas are very accessible and offer great family oriented walking
    * ties in with other efforts in Cuba (like the Continental Divide Trail) to encourage a recreation based economy.
    * potential for trail linking and traversing all 5 badlands
    * crystal clear skies, fresh air, genuine high desert solitude
    * colorful caches of large petrified trees

    ECOLOGY
    * unique ecological niche: old growth juniper stands on stabilized sand dunes
    * higher elevation sky islands of enhanced biodiversity
    * relatively intact native plant communities
    * wildlife reservoirs and migration corridors for elk, mule deer, cougar, wild cats
    * rugged terrain provides habitat for large birds of prey
    * diverse songbirds including cliff swallows and road runners
    * snake and lizard watching including occasional rattlers
    * ERMA designation will help control the devastating, ongoing illegal wood cutting (by BLM’s own study over 1200 live trees have been illegally cut, withthe largest and oldest grandfather Junipers being targeted)
    * ERMA designation should ban all vehicle access in the original 5 badlands
    * ERMA designation should include road closures

    SCIENCE & EDUCATION
    *world class petrified wood
    *world class early mammal fossils
    *raw geology up close and personal
    * classic examples of of sedimentary rocks and erosion features
    * graphic reminders of lush ecosystems from 63 million years ago
    * unique stabilized dunes systems with old growth Juniper communities
    * New Mexico Museum of Natural History engaged in active research.
    * living laboratory where Geology can literally be “seen in action”
    * adaptation of trees into cliff clinging bonsai modes due to harsh environment

    ECONOMICS/TOURISM
    * SJBB-ERMA could be first step for further protection such as inclusion within the National Landscape Conservation System or part of a National Monument designation, either of which would support the local economy.
    * Five well protected recreation areas west of Cuba will bring increased tourist dollars into Cuba Village from the state, USA and even international visitors
    * SJBB-ERMA could lead to making US 550 a National Scenic Byway

    LONG VIEW
    * SJBB-ERMA designation is a first step toward inclusion in the National Landscape Conservation System
    * SJBB-ERMA designation is a first step toward establishing the San Juan Basin Badlands National Monument and National Scenic Byway (US 550)

    ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS FOR YOUR COMMENT
    * No Vehicles should be allowed anywhere in the ERMA except for major access points and authorized use.
    * No wood cutting should be allowed anywhere in the San Juan Basin Badlands ERMA except under very specific and controlled situations
    * No petrified wood collecting should be allowed anywhere in the San Juan Basin Badlands ERMA

  • For Immediate Release
    March 20, 2012

    By Steve Ramirez

    http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_20217533/supporters-back-national-monument-status-organ-mountains

    LAS CRUCES — With the afternoon sun creating all kinds of hues and shadows, the Organ Mountains served as the backdrop Tuesday of a news conference of southern New Mexico leaders urging President Barack Obama to designate the mountain range as a national monument.

    “It’s time to get it done, it’s time it happened,” said Billy Garrett, Doña Ana County commissioner, and retired deputy general superintendent of the Gateway National Recreation Area, in the port of New York and New Jersey.

    Garrett was the master of ceremonies at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum, where politicians, as well as business, education, and civic leaders, representing 175 entities, gathered to endorse the proposal. Together, they submitted a letter Tuesday to the president asking that the Organ Mountains be designated a national monument. White Sands National Monument is nearest U.S. monument to Las Cruces and the Organs.

    “As historians, archeologists, geographers, and cultural preservation experts, we write to express our strong support of protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region as a new Bureau of Land Management national monument,” said a portion of the consortium’s letter to Obama. “Possessing such nationally unique resources as the Butterfield Trail, Billy The Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Geronimo’s Cave, Kilbourne Hole, and Aden Lava Flow, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region is an international treasure, characterized by unique and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources.

    “We are confident that supporting the conservation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks assets will protect our rich cultural heritage for generations to come, and be a beacon for those eager to explore one of the most beautiful and historically rich regions of the American Southwest.”

    Supporters said the benefits of the designation are numerous. In addition to the preservation of historical, cultural, and natural resources, they said declaring the mountain range a national monument would also have a strong economic impact on southern New Mexico.

    “We’re thrilled and excited to talk about this new protection strategy,” said Renee Frank, president of the board of directors of the Green Chamber of Commerce of Las Cruces. “It cannot be overstated just how much this new national monument would impact us. … Simply, there’s no question the Desert Peaks National Monument will create jobs. It fits with what the Green Chamber calls the “Triple Bottom line,’ it would be good for people, good for the planet, and good for prosperity.”

    Mayor Ken Miyagishima said he believes in the initiative.

    “What better way to promote Las Cruces and southern New Mexico than by establishing this monument,” Miyagishima said. “… This is good for the community, good for jobs, good for the environment, and good for preserving history.”

    Petitioning the President

    • Some southern New Mexico politicians, business owners, educators and interested residents have asked President Obama to designate the Organ Mountains as a national monument.

    • They have suggested naming the proposed national monument the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    • They said the designation would not only protect the lands at and near the mountain range east of Las Cruces, but it could also stimulate southern New Mexico’s economy.

    • National monuments are protected public lands with unique characteristics that are managed to ensure their natural, historic and cultural values are protected for future generations.

  • For Immediate Release
    March 20, 2012

    By Steve Ramirez

    http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_20217533/supporters-back-national-monument-status-organ-mountains

    LAS CRUCES — With the afternoon sun creating all kinds of hues and shadows, the Organ Mountains served as the backdrop Tuesday of a news conference of southern New Mexico leaders urging President Barack Obama to designate the mountain range as a national monument.

    “It’s time to get it done, it’s time it happened,” said Billy Garrett, Doña Ana County commissioner, and retired deputy general superintendent of the Gateway National Recreation Area, in the port of New York and New Jersey.

    Garrett was the master of ceremonies at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum, where politicians, as well as business, education, and civic leaders, representing 175 entities, gathered to endorse the proposal. Together, they submitted a letter Tuesday to the president asking that the Organ Mountains be designated a national monument. White Sands National Monument is nearest U.S. monument to Las Cruces and the Organs.

    “As historians, archeologists, geographers, and cultural preservation experts, we write to express our strong support of protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region as a new Bureau of Land Management national monument,” said a portion of the consortium’s letter to Obama. “Possessing such nationally unique resources as the Butterfield Trail, Billy The Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Geronimo’s Cave, Kilbourne Hole, and Aden Lava Flow, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region is an international treasure, characterized by unique and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources.

    “We are confident that supporting the conservation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks assets will protect our rich cultural heritage for generations to come, and be a beacon for those eager to explore one of the most beautiful and historically rich regions of the American Southwest.”

    Supporters said the benefits of the designation are numerous. In addition to the preservation of historical, cultural, and natural resources, they said declaring the mountain range a national monument would also have a strong economic impact on southern New Mexico.

    “We’re thrilled and excited to talk about this new protection strategy,” said Renee Frank, president of the board of directors of the Green Chamber of Commerce of Las Cruces. “It cannot be overstated just how much this new national monument would impact us. … Simply, there’s no question the Desert Peaks National Monument will create jobs. It fits with what the Green Chamber calls the “Triple Bottom line,’ it would be good for people, good for the planet, and good for prosperity.”

    Mayor Ken Miyagishima said he believes in the initiative.

    “What better way to promote Las Cruces and southern New Mexico than by establishing this monument,” Miyagishima said. “… This is good for the community, good for jobs, good for the environment, and good for preserving history.”

    Petitioning the President

    • Some southern New Mexico politicians, business owners, educators and interested residents have asked President Obama to designate the Organ Mountains as a national monument.

    • They have suggested naming the proposed national monument the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    • They said the designation would not only protect the lands at and near the mountain range east of Las Cruces, but it could also stimulate southern New Mexico’s economy.

    • National monuments are protected public lands with unique characteristics that are managed to ensure their natural, historic and cultural values are protected for future generations.

  • For Immediate Release

    By Steve Ramirez
    March 20, 2012

    http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_20217533/supporters-back-national-monument-status-organ-mountains

    LAS CRUCES — With the afternoon sun creating all kinds of hues and shadows, the Organ Mountains served as the backdrop Tuesday of a news conference of southern New Mexico leaders urging President Barack Obama to designate the mountain range as a national monument.

    “It’s time to get it done, it’s time it happened,” said Billy Garrett, Doña Ana County commissioner, and retired deputy general superintendent of the Gateway National Recreation Area, in the port of New York and New Jersey.

    Garrett was the master of ceremonies at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum, where politicians, as well as business, education, and civic leaders, representing 175 entities, gathered to endorse the proposal. Together, they submitted a letter Tuesday to the president asking that the Organ Mountains be designated a national monument. White Sands National Monument is nearest U.S. monument to Las Cruces and the Organs.

    “As historians, archeologists, geographers, and cultural preservation experts, we write to express our strong support of protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region as a new Bureau of Land Management national monument,” said a portion of the consortium’s letter to Obama. “Possessing such nationally unique resources as the Butterfield Trail, Billy The Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Geronimo’s Cave, Kilbourne Hole, and Aden Lava Flow, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region is an international treasure, characterized by unique and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources.

    “We are confident that supporting the conservation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks assets will protect our rich cultural heritage for generations to come, and be a beacon for those eager to explore one of the most beautiful and historically rich regions of the American Southwest.”

    Supporters said the benefits of the designation are numerous. In addition to the preservation of historical, cultural, and natural resources, they said declaring the mountain range a national monument would also have a strong economic impact on southern New Mexico.

    “We’re thrilled and excited to talk about this new protection strategy,” said Renee Frank, president of the board of directors of the Green Chamber of Commerce of Las Cruces. “It cannot be overstated just how much this new national monument would impact us. … Simply, there’s no question the Desert Peaks National Monument will create jobs. It fits with what the Green Chamber calls the “Triple Bottom line,’ it would be good for people, good for the planet, and good for prosperity.”

    Mayor Ken Miyagishima said he believes in the initiative.

    “What better way to promote Las Cruces and southern New Mexico than by establishing this monument,” Miyagishima said. “… This is good for the community, good for jobs, good for the environment, and good for preserving history.”

    Petitioning the President

    • Some southern New Mexico politicians, business owners, educators and interested residents have asked President Obama to designate the Organ Mountains as a national monument.

    • They have suggested naming the proposed national monument the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    • They said the designation would not only protect the lands at and near the mountain range east of Las Cruces, but it could also stimulate southern New Mexico’s economy.

    • National monuments are protected public lands with unique characteristics that are managed to ensure their natural, historic and cultural values are protected for future generations.

  • It is not too late to submit public comments to the Oil Conservation Commission about the Pit Rule! The New Mexico Pit Rule was enacted to prevent unlined drilling pits. The commission heard testimony during the week of May 14-18 from the oil and gas industry regarding their petition to roll back the requirements of the Pit Rule. If the petition is granted, the regulations of oil and gas development in New Mexico will shift from being among the most strict in the country to being among the least strict. Some of the changes would include allowing the use of temporary disposal pits for up to a year (twice as long as the current rule), allowing the companies to “log” their pits within their own records rather than requiring a permit for each pit from OCD, and the allowance of a much higher level of poisonous chlorides in the pit waste. The industry did not present ANY evidence that the Pit Rule is impossible to comply with, overly burdensome, or that it does not protect the environment.

    The Pit Rule was developed in a collaborative process during the Richardson Administration, which included heavy input from the oil and gas industry. This attempt at rulemaking is largely a political one, brought about by the change in administration and therefore the makeup of the commission. The companies see an opportunity to assert their power over the political process, even when there is no logical reason to overturn the rule. Prior to the rule’s implementation four years ago, New Mexico had at least 400 cases of groundwater contamination from oil and gas development. Since the Pit Rule, there have been zeroPlease tell the commission not to cave to industry pressure and to continue ensuring a high standard for our beautiful state’s land and water.

    The comment period has been extended to June 15, 2012. Comments can be mailed, faxed or emailed to Florene Davidson, at Oil Conservation Division, 1220 South Saint Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM 87505, FAX: 505-476-3462, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  The commissioners who will make the decision are Ms. Bailey, Mr. Balch, and Mr. Bloom.

  • oct 11 weekly

  • According to a new study cited by the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, designating the Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument would have a “significant” impact on the local economy, resulting in an annual economic impact of approximately $15 million, and creating nearly 300 new jobs.

    Those figures come from a new independent study by BBC Research and Consulting. By estimating current and future spending by national monument visitors, the study concluded that, “a public land designation, such as a national monument, may signal enhanced quality of a potential visitor experience, substantially increasing visitation.”

    The Taos Chamber of Commerce also noted the recent letter sent to President Obama by U.S. Sens. Udall and Bingaman, requesting national monument status for Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains.

    “Protecting Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument clearly makes good business sense,” said Brad Malone, Chairman of the Taos County Chamber of Commerce. “This study suggests that recognizing the area as a national monument should bring more folks from across the country and around the world here to visit. We know how spectacular this place is, but having such recognition will raise awareness of its value enormously. In addition, the national monument designation would protect wildlife habitat prized by hunters and anglers and a broad variety of archeological and historic resources for future generations.”

    Read the entire Taos County Chamber Press Release here.

  • According to a new study cited by the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, designating the Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument would have a “significant” impact on the local economy, resulting in an annual economic impact of approximately $15 million, and creating nearly 300 new jobs.

    Those figures come from a new independent study by BBC Research and Consulting. By estimating current and future spending by national monument visitors, the study concluded that, “a public land designation, such as a national monument, may signal enhanced quality of a potential visitor experience, substantially increasing visitation.”

    The Taos Chamber of Commerce also noted the recent letter sent to President Obama by U.S. Sens. Udall and Bingaman, requesting national monument status for Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains.

    “Protecting Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument clearly makes good business sense,” said Brad Malone, Chairman of the Taos County Chamber of Commerce. “This study suggests that recognizing the area as a national monument should bring more folks from across the country and around the world here to visit. We know how spectacular this place is, but having such recognition will raise awareness of its value enormously. In addition, the national monument designation would protect wildlife habitat prized by hunters and anglers and a broad variety of archeological and historic resources for future generations.”

    Read the entire Taos County Chamber Press Release here.

  • By J.R. Loga, The Taos News

    December 21, 2012

    Cisco Guevara is the kind of poster child conservationists dream of: A bearded river guide in a floppy black hat who has 400-year-old roots in the area and knows how to spin a yarn.

    On Saturday (Dec. 15), Guevara worked his charm on U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in front of a crowd that came out to show fervent support for protecting a huge swath of northern Taos County.

    “I was probably only about 3 years old and I was looking into the kitchen sink,” Guevara told Salazar. “My dad had gone fishing and he was going to feed the whole clan — there were more than 10 of us — with two fish. They were huge. They were going over the edges of the sink. And I said, ‘Dad, where did these fish come from?’ ‘El Río Grande del Norte.’ And from then on, I always wanted to visit that magic place.”

    Guevara was one of around 50 people who spoke at the two-hour meeting, which was meant to gather public comment on a proposal to designate 236,000 remote acres in Taos and Río Arriba counties as a conservation area or national monument. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM. was on hand, as was Jesse Juen, state director for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

    Notice of Salazar’s visit was announced about 24 hours before the meeting began (Salazar’s staff said they were watching the weather to make sure they could make it), but word spread quickly and a standing-room-only audience of nearly 200 people showed up Saturday morning.

    The meeting room at the Kachina Lodge was overflowing with Taoseños of nearly every ilk — from artists, to tribal representatives, to hunters, rafters and a troop of uniformed Boy Scouts — all of whom came out to champion the idea.

    “We have Indian names for all these places here,” said Taos Pueblo Lt. Gov. Gilbert Suazo, pointing to landmarks on a giant map and reciting the Tiwa name for each. “All of those places are a part of a history, a part of our culture, a part of our tradition. So we are interested in having that area protected.”

    Questa Mayor Esther García spoke about the need to safeguard the land while respecting the historic activities of longtime Hispano residents. “For me, protecting El Río Grande del Norte is very important, but I also want to protect the traditional uses of land,” García said. “We are land grant heirs in New Mexico. Grazing is important. The fishing, the hunting, the herb gathering. Everything that has been traditional for my culture is very important to me.”

    Outfitter Stuart Wilde said he came to Saturday’s meeting as a scout leader, a local business owner and a lover of Northern New Mexico. “I encourage you to protect permanently the Río Grande del Norte, whether it’s via a national conservation area or a national monument,” Wilde told Salazar.

    After taking comments, Salazar called a vote, asking who was in favor of a presidential proclamation to establish a monument. Every hand in the audience was raised. No one spoke in opposition during the entire event, even after Salazar encouraged any dissenters to give their opinions.

    For months community members have lauded the idea of protecting the Río Grande del Norte, arguing that it will preserve a unique environmental and cultural heritage while serving as a tourist draw that will boost the local economy. But at the moment, it’s unclear what approach the federal government may take to accomplish that goal.

    The area — a desolate, volcanic plateau bordered on the east and west by mountains — is bisected by the Río Grande Gorge and is a a popular destination for sportsmen and outdoors enthusiasts.

    New Mexico’s congressional delegation has introduced bills in both the Senate and the House that would create the Río Grande del Norte National Conservation Area along with two adjacent wilderness areas. However, those bills have made little progress in Congress thanks to legislative deadlock in Washington, D.C.

    Salazar, a native of the San Luís Valley, told The Taos News after the meeting that he would be working on determining how best to get some sort of protection in place, be that through Congress or through a presidential action that would bypass the log jam.

    “It is a very special place and we’ll look at the appropriate ways of protecting it,” Salazar said.

    Salazar declined to give any specific timeline as to when he would offer his recommendations to the President or when a decision might be made.

    Obama established two national monuments this fall: César E. Chávez National Monument in California, and Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado.

    The language included in the House and Senate bills would result in almost no immediate changes to the way the Río Grande del Norte area is currently managed. Existing grazing and woodcutting would continue, and mining north of Tres Piedras would be allowed to go on, through it could not expand. If adopted, the legislation dictates that no new road be built inside the conservation area boundaries.

    While there is no immediate threat of large-scale development, the bill would essentially stop future growth on public lands in the conservation area, with the idea of preserving the landscape for future generations.

    It’s not known whether a presidential proclamation would include the same language, though, based on Saturday’s hearing, many of the comments Salazar will now take to the president include similar stipulations.

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