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A Wild Rush in Taos County – and Washington, D.C.

March 24, 2008

Taos, NM – Things could be getting "wild" in New Mexico...or staying that way, at least. Proposals to preserve the Sabinoso Wilderness near Las Vegas have been introduced in Congress, and now a number of groups are coming together to try and hammer out a plan that also will preserve a large swath of public land around the Rio Grande in Taos and Rio Arriba counties.

Jim O'Donnell with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance in Taos says there's no immediate threat to the proposed El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area like there was with oil and gas development threatening the Valle Vidal, but that's the point.

"We don't want another thing that's going to be so divisive and cost the community so much money to fight off. Let's be proactive and look ahead."

A bill to protect the area is being prepared for introduction in the Senate. O'Donnell notes Gov. Richardson tried to create a similar designation when he was a congressman in the 1990s. The measure didn't pass, and nearly half of the land has been sold off since.

O'Donnell believes many people might think of the area as empty land, but there's much more there than what can be seen from the few highways nearby.

"First of all, you've got the river, and that's one of our most significant resources in the western United States, much less just Taos County. Although a lot of what you see from the car is sagebrush, as you get farther into that area you have these beautiful remnant grasslands that harken back to what the Spanish might have found when they first came there."

The bill that would include preserving the Sabinoso Wilderness is HR 5610, co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Udall.

Eric Mack/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NM