For Immediate Release
Date: June 24, 2010
Contact: Nathan Newcomer, NM Wilderness Alliance
Phone: 505-250-4225

Bill to Expand Cibola National Forest Gets House Hearing

NM Wilderness Leader Applauds Needed Legislation

New Mexico Wilderness Alliance executive director Stephen Capra was on Capitol Hill today to testify in support of the Cibola National Forest Expansion legislation.  The measure, introduced by Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), would add the Crest of Montezuma to the north end of the Cibola National Forest and adds nearly 1,000 acres to the Manzano Wilderness on the forest’s western end.

Capra praised Congressman Heinrich for his outreach to varied constituency groups – tribes, Land Grant and Acequia communities, sportsmen and conservationists – in working to expand the forest, including the addition of important acreage to the existing Manzano Mountain Wilderness.   “The final product reflects the willingness of all participants to reach a workable compromise that will benefit all concerned and ensure greater protection for these important federal lands,” Capra testified.

“The transfer of these areas from the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service as additions to the Cibola National Forest simply makes good common sense.  This action will ensure these lands are better managed—improving their recreational and wildlife habitat values,” he said.

The Sandia Mountains are known by Native Americans as the Watermelon Mountains, because of the beautiful colors that reflect off these peaks at sunset.  They are the dramatic backdrop of Albuquerque and a source of recreational opportunity and solitude for urban dwellers.  In 1978, New Mexico Senator Pete V. Domenici, working with conservationists and a diverse group of stakeholders, championed legislation creating the 38,000-acre Sandia Wilderness. This measure has since then provided Albuquerque residents a stunning landscape – free of development, which has become a staple for those looking for quiet recreation or to enjoy the beauty and solitude the “Land of Enchantment” has to offer.

“The addition of the Crest of Montezuma is an important addition to the Cibola National Forest,” Capra said.  “Bringing this area under the management of the U.S. Forest Service is also widely supported by the neighboring community of Placitas, where people have long asked for an expansion of the wilderness boundaries.”   Capra noted that both the Crest of Montezuma and the Manzanos are important wildlife corridors, home to deer, elk, black bear and mountain lion.

“For more than a quarter century, a small piece of the Manzano mountain has been left out of the wilderness boundary, leaving management of this area confusing and disconnected,” Capa testified.   “Congressman Heinrich has engendered solid collaboration and outreach to the Land Grant community and local sportsmen here to ensure that all-important voices have been heard as he developed this legislation.”

“The addition of the new wilderness will only enhance this remarkable landscape —where one can drop into a narrow canyon in the fall and enjoy the beauty of the native maple forests, or stand on the mountaintop and gaze literally hundreds of miles and see distant mountain ranges, the green cut of the Rio Grande, and watch hawks and Golden Eagles flying across this great expanse of American wilderness,” he concluded.