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Congress Considers NM's Columbine-Hondo as Wilderness

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PHOTO: This week, a Congressional subcommittee holds a hearing on a bill to make the popular Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area near Taos a federal wilderness area. Photo courtesy Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter.
PHOTO: This week, a Congressional subcommittee holds a hearing on a bill to make the popular Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area near Taos a federal wilderness area. Photo courtesy Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter.
 By Troy WildeContact
November 21, 2013

SANTA FE, N.M. - The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area near Taos has another chance of being upgraded to a full-fledged federal wilderness area. A U.S. Senate subcommittee is holding a hearing this week on the "Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act." It would add protections that would ensure that generations to come would be able to hunt, fish, camp and hike in the area.

Max Trujillo with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation said there appears to be broad political support for the idea.

"It should go through the Senate pretty easily; there should be bipartisan support in the committee. It should pass pretty easily," Trujillo said.

Earlier attempts to protect the area haven't made it through Congress, but Trujillo predicted that, this time, the bill will get House approval if the Senate passes it. Columbine-Hondo is known for world-class fishing and hiking trails that reach 12,000 feet in elevation.

Trujillo, who calls himself an avid hunter, called the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo a sportsman's paradise.

"Everything from bighorn sheep, elk, deer, turkey, blue grouse is up in there," he said. "So, there's a lot of game species."

The area is also a significant clean-water source for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico. It supplies water to two of the larger Rio Grande tributaries: the Red River and the Rio Hondo.

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