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Delegation Heads to DC to Push for Public Lands

Advocates are in Washington, D.C. this week to push lawmakers to protect public lands such as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. (BLM)
Advocates are in Washington, D.C. this week to push lawmakers to protect public lands such as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. (BLM)
June 15, 2016

TAOS, N.M. - Advocates from New Mexico and across the country are headed to Washington, D.C., this week to push lawmakers and Obama administration officials to preserve public lands. They will be asking lawmakers to designate Ute Mountain and San Antonio Mountain as wilderness areas within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Erminio Martinez, a Taos rancher who holds historic grazing rights on public lands, said it's important for elected officials to hear from those to whom the land means the most.

"As a livestock permittee in Northern New Mexico going back for several generations, it is certainly my obligation to be able to preserve those grazing privileges as well," he said. "My grandfather used to graze our sheep and cattle before New Mexico was a state."

Advocates seeking approval of the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act have said it would designate the two regions as protected wilderness areas, encompassing more than 21,000 acres of the 250,000-acre national monument in northwest New Mexico.

Martinez said the wilderness areas lie along one of the world's great avian migratory routes and also are home to elk, deer, turkeys, golden eagles and other wildlife. He said it is a legacy that must be preserved for future generations.

"We have not only a moral but a legal obligation to be able to preserve these lands, these beautiful lands, for our children and our grandchildren," he said.

Delegation members will be asking lawmakers to preserve public lands such as Gold Butte in Nevada, the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Bears Ears in Utah, as well as several others.

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Support for this reporting was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - NM