Members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation today applauded the decision by President Barack Obama to create a national monument to protect the Río Grande del Norte in Northern New Mexico. The president will hold a National Monument Proclamations Signing Ceremony at the White House on Monday.
The Bureau of Land Management, under the direction of the Department of the Interior, currently manages the 240,000 acres of land in Northern New Mexico. The Río Grande del Norte monument proclamation will be modeled after the delegation's legislative efforts to protect the area with input from Taos and Rio Arriba County residents. The proclamation has strong local support.
In 2007, now-retired Senator Jeff Bingaman's office began working with residents of Taos and Rio Arriba Counties to identify how to best protect the land. Since then, Bingaman, Sens. Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Ben Ray Luján have worked to advance legislation through Congress to protect the area and asked the White House to consider a monument designation.
"I want to thank President Obama and Secretary Salazar for creating this National Monument in Northern New Mexico," said Bingaman, former chairman of the Senate and Natural Resources Committee. "Protecting the Río Grande del Norte means we are not only preserving this beautiful space, but ensuring that it will continue to be used by anglers, ranchers, and land grant heirs. It is my hope that this decision has a very positive impact on the economy of the region."
"Permanent protection of the Río Grande del Norte would not have been possible without the leadership and advocacy of Jeff Bingaman," said Udall. "This is a victory for the people of Taos and Rio Arriba Counties and will be a lasting part of Jeff's legacy. I am proud to have been a part of such a successful effort to protect some of Northern New Mexico's most historically and culturally rich land for the benefit of locals and visitors."
"For more than a century, the Antiquities Act has given American presidents the authority to protect our nation's most treasured landscapes, and the Río Grande del Norte is indeed a treasure," said Heinrich. "My deepest thanks go out to Senator Bingaman and the local community for championing this effort, and to President Obama for recognizing just how special the Río Grande del Norte is."
"With the stroke of a pen, President Obama will provide the Río Grande del Norte with the protection needed to ensure that this majestic land remains one of New Mexico's crowing jewels for generations to come," said Luján. "This monument designation is the result of years of hard work by so many in the community, and would not have been possible without the tireless effort of Jeff Bingaman. By working together with small businesses, local governments, Taos Pueblo and those who appreciate this pristine land for recreation, traditional and cultural uses, or finding inspiration--we have finally ensured that the history and future of the Río Grande del Norte will be protected and preserved."
In Feb. 2013, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Congressman Ben Ray Luján reintroduced the legislation to protect the Río Grande del Norte and met with community stakeholders in Taos to discuss their efforts to ensure permanent protection of this area.
In an Oct. 2012 letter, Bingaman and Udall asked President Obama to consider designating the area for national monument status. In a separate letter, Luján and Heinrich also asked the administration to make the area a monument.
Secretary Salazar visited the area on Dec. 15, 2012 in response to Bingaman and Udall's request that local communities are consulted as National Monument declaration is explored.