WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to establish Cerro de la Olla Wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico. U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) are original cosponsors.
For generations, people of the Taos area have hunted, gathered herbs, and collected firewood on the flanks of Cerro de la Olla. This proposed wilderness area would preserve traditional uses and provide sanctuary to a wide range of wildlife species, while maintaining current access routes.
“Cerro de la Olla towers over the Taos Plateau and the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. Much like Ute Mountain, Cerro de la Olla is also a shield volcano with upper elevations that offer solitude and unparalleled views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the East, the San Juan Mountains to the Northwest, and the Rio Grande Gorge down below,” said Heinrich, member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Cerro de la Olla provides essential security habitat for species such as elk, mule deer, black bears, and mountain lions. This legislation has gained the support of a wide range of community members, as well as the Taos County Commission and Taos Pueblo. Protecting this peak and its spectacular views has long been a priority for the Taos community. I’m glad to reintroduce this legislation and will continue working to protect this iconic New Mexico viewshed.”
“New Mexicans share love and deep respect for our public lands and we understand they must be preserved and protected for future generations. I love hiking and have climbed to the top of the Cerro and experienced its magnificent beauty. This land holds a deep cultural significance for Taos Pueblo, local ranchers and hunters, and community members,” said Leger Fernández. “During my visit to the Cerro, I listened to community members who came together to recognize the value of Cerro de la Olla. I re-introduced this bill with them in mind to protect our sacred lands, and I sincerely thank Senator Heinrich for being its Senate champion. I believe listening is how we understand people’s needs and how we can work together to address them. Let's be better ancestors than descendants.”
Senator Heinrich first introduced the legislation in 2020 with then-U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.). Representative Leger Fernández began leading the House version in 2021. Senator Heinrich advanced the Senate version out of committee in 2022.
“I’m proud to partner with my New Mexico colleagues to introduce legislation that will establish the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Supported by the Taos Pueblo, community leaders, and advocates, this legislation will protect and preserve Cerro de la Olla for vital wildlife species and New Mexicans to enjoy for generations,” said Luján. “I look forward to designating Cerro de la Olla as wilderness to protect this true New Mexican gem.”
“The Cerro de la Olla area is not only a breathtaking landscape—it’s a culturally and economically critical area for the surrounding communities in New Mexico,” said Stansbury, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “I am grateful to the leaders of Taos Pueblo, landowners, ranchers, small businesses, and environmental stakeholders who have all worked to protect the Cerro de la Olla. I look forward to working in partnership with Senators Heinrich and Luján and Representative Leger Fernández, local leaders, and our communities to protect this sacred land.”
Senator Heinrich and Representative Leger Fernández’s legislation has received support from community members, nonprofit organizations, and Tribal entities, including:
“The Taos Pueblo People have always recognized the sacredness of all the mountains, in our valley, including Cerro De La Olla. Our ancestors have always emphasized the importance of protecting our mountains and forest from exploitation and development but also protecting the renewable resources they provide to all the people in our area," said Taos Pueblo War Chief John N. Archuleta.
“I’m proud to support the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness designation bill introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich and Representative Teresa Leger Fernández. For generations, the people of northern New Mexico have relied on the lands and forests of the Cerro de la Olla for sustenance, resources, and livelihoods. It is both a spiritual and economic base that deserves the protection of Wilderness designation to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy all that makes the Cerro de la Olla special,” said Pascualito M. Maestas, Mayor of the Town of Taos.
“Cerro de la olla has been a preferred grazing area for generations of local ranchers. I’ve restored hundreds of acres of grassland on my ranch adjacent to this mountain. This area attracts large herds of wintering wildlife. It is imperative that Cerro de la Olla be protected against development, so that wildlife populations thrive for the benefit of future generations,” said Eliu Romero, grazing permittee on Cerro de la Olla and private land owner adjacent to Cerro de la Olla.
“From discovered prehistoric artifacts, we know that humans have visited and used Cerro de la Olla for thousands of years. Today, New Mexicans and others visit this rugged mountain to enjoy solitude and expansive vistas, to recreate, and to appreciate its natural splendor. This bill recognizes the importance of saving this special place for tomorrow’s visitors, human and wildlife alike, that they may have the same opportunities that we are fortunate enough to have today. Senator Heinrich knows the value of ‘Pot Mountain’ personally, and so do we. We thank him for his continued foresight,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild.
“Río Grande del Norte National Monument is graced by two massive volcanoes. Cerro de la Olla, one of these volcanoes, lies in the heart of the monument. It contains unique habitat and a summit with unparalled views. It should be given the highest protection to benefit wildlife and future generations,” said Roberta Salazar, Executive Director of Rivers and Birds.
“The lands in northern New Mexico -- from dramatic scenic vistas to opportunities for solitude -- are some of our state’s most unspoiled wild places and Congress should do all it can to keep them that way. Senator Heinrich was instrumental in the designation of Río Grande del Norte National Monument and now he is leading the charge of protecting Cerro de la Olla. The wildest of the lands within the monument serve as a critical sanctuary and corridor for wildlife migration and the US Senate has an opportunity to stand with New Mexico by joining Sen. Heinrich to ensure that Cerro de la Olla gets the Wilderness protections it needs,” said Michael Casaus, New Mexico State Director for The Wilderness Society.
"The Cerro de la Olla in northern New Mexico is home to diverse wildlife species including elk, deer, cougars, black bears, and golden eagles. The area is also key for migratory movement along the Upper Rio Grande watershed,” said Andrew Black, public lands field director at the National Wildlife Federation. “Designating this region as a wilderness will safeguard wildlife, conserve one of the most intact migration corridors in the nation, and ensure that hunters, hikers, and other outdoor recreationists can continue to enjoy this pristine area for generations to come.”
"Cerro de la Olla is a solitary lava dome, rising out of the high sagebrush plains, in the heart of the Río Grande del Norte. The volcano and the surrounding area, provide critical winter habit and shelter for our migrating herds of rocky mountain elk. The mountain has such a diverse ecology, from a southwest desert at its base, to a true alpine grassland in the caldera at the summit. The area is also rich in cultural history and has numerous historical and archaeological sites. Cerro de la Ollas is a treasured public wild land, for local hunters and hikers alike, and is even mentioned in the 2013 Proclamation that established the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, as one of the Monument's Objects of Value to protect for future generations. Thanks and kudos to Senator Heinrich and Representative Leger Fernández, for introducing this wilderness bill for Cerro de la Olla, and their ongoing commitment to protecting or public lands,” said Stuart Wilde, local wilderness guide and conservation advocate with Wild Earth Llama Adventures.
Leger Fernández Background: