Washington, DC -
04/10/2012 - Jim Mathews, policy manager of Pew’s Campaign for America’s Wilderness, issued the following statement praising Senator Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) decision to sponsor a bill to designate as wilderness more than 40,000 acres north of Taos, New Mexico.
“We commend Senator Bingaman for his efforts to leave a natural legacy for New Mexicans. His legislation will provide permanent protection for a spectacular landscape that was recognized by Congress for its outstanding wild character more than three decades ago.
“Local support for this measure is strong and deep, and includes input from area business owners, hunters and anglers, ranchers, conservationists, and mountain bikers. Columbine Hondo draws visitors from across the country, contributing to the local economy, and yet it is the largest unprotected wilderness in Taos County. And because the area provides water for two of the larger Rio Grande River tributaries, it is a significant watershed for the entire state.
“Senator Bingaman’s bill will preserve this wilderness and its important cultural and historical traditions, including grazing, hunting, and herb gathering. As a gift to future generations, the legislation will ensure that this part of the ruggedly beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains remains untouched and free of development for all time.”
In 1980, Congress recognized the wilderness character and value of the 46,000-acre Columbine Hondo region and designated it a wilderness study area, which provided interim protection. It contains the headwaters of the Rio Hondo and Red River, major tributaries of the upper Rio Grande in northern New Mexico, providing clean water to downstream agricultural communities.