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A champion for the outdoors

Dear Friend,

The Valles Caldera is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. But for many, many decades, most New Mexicans could only peer into its edge from the side of the road. One New Mexican deserves an enormous amount of credit for unlocking public access to the Valles Caldera – and its scenic hiking trails, elk hunting, and trout fishing.

I recently spoke on the Senate Floor about the determination, leadership, and vision of that New Mexican, my friend Kent Salazar. I hope you can take a moment to watch and share the video of my remarks on this incredible New Mexican.

VIDEO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich delivers remarks on the Senate Floor in recognition of conservation and public lands champion Kent Salazar, June 15, 2023.

A lifelong New Mexican, Kent has dedicated himself to the idea that the outdoors are for everyone. Not just for those with wealth or family connections. From an early age, Kent found that time spent outdoors brought him a sense of renewal. Ever since, he has worked to make sure that all New Mexicans—and all Americans—can build a connection with nature.

For 20 years as a public administrator, Kent worked to make our land, air, and water safer and healthier at the City of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department. An avid hunter, angler, and outdoorsman, Kent also led the New Mexico Wildlife Federation as its grassroots membership fought to protect iconic New Mexico landscapes, including the Valle Vidal, the Sabinoso Wilderness, and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Three years ago, Kent was elected unanimously to serve as the Chairman of the National Wildlife Federation’s Board of Directors. In that role, he led the charge to secure permanent and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and pass historic investments in landscape restoration as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. Kent also helped to found the Green Leadership Trust and Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors—or HECHO.

Through all of this work, I have especially appreciated Kent’s kindness and passion. His pragmatism and knowledge. And his devoted focus on making the conservation movement more inclusive and mentoring the next generation of conservation leaders. We could all learn from the way that Kent keeps an open mind, listens to others, and always seems to drive the whole room in a more productive direction.

Kent once said: “If we get the right people involved, we can accomplish a lot and help our communities and our future, our children.”

He’s absolutely right. I am extraordinarily grateful to have worked with and learned from Kent for all these years. And I am honored to call him a friend. I hope learning about his leadership will inspire more New Mexicans to keep caring for the Land of Enchantment.


United States Senator