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Roadless Recreation Week Proclaimed in Land of Enchantment

August 6, 2010

RED RIVER, N.M. - New Mexicans will be striking out on foot in our state's many wild, roadless forest lands over the next week. Gov. Richardson has proclaimed the first-ever Roadless Recreation Week in New Mexico starting tomorrow.

Nathan Newcomer, associate director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, says the idea is to 'get your feet in the forest' or any of the many other roadless parts of the Land of Enchantment. He notes that recreation on public lands is a $3.8-billion-a-year industry.

"Public lands in general, and especially our national forests, are a big source of income and tourism dollars for local businesses and our economy. People going outside and spending time and money in the great outdoors."

Roadless Week takes place as a federal court prepares to issue a decision that could decide the fate of the 2001 national Roadless Rule, which protected roughly one-third of undeveloped Forest Service lands. The rule has been the subject of conflicting court decisions over the past decade, but Newcomer says most Americans are behind it.

"It was the result of the largest public lands review process in the United States history - with more than 1.2 million public comments and 600 public hearings across the country. The vast majority of the public supported it."

Last summer, a federal judge ruled in favor of the rule, but another similar case is still pending. The Obama administration has said it supports the 2001 national rule.

Newcomer hopes that, by the end of Roadless Recreation Week, more New Mexicans will be aware of the state's many untrammeled treasures.

"We have a natural heritage right in our backyard that we should be proud of and be standing up for."

The Alliance will lead a number of hikes, service projects, fly fishing trips and other activities in roadless areas between this Saturday and August 15, starting with a hike tomorrow in the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area outside of Taos among some of the state's tallest mountains. At least a dozen other states are taking part in the celebration.

For a list of Roadless Recreation Week activities, go to www.ourforests.org/roadlessrecreation.html.

Eric Mack/Deb Courson, Public News Service - NM