WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, and U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) have introduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, the Pecos Watershed Protection Act, and legislation to establish Cerro de la Olla Wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico.
The Buffalo Tract Protection Act would withdraw four parcels of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in southern Sandoval County, including the Buffalo Tract and the Crest of Montezuma, from any mineral development, including gravel mining. The legislation previously passed by a voice vote in a key legislative business meeting in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in December of 2019.
“The Crest of Montezuma and the Buffalo Tract are home to important ecosystems and have been used by communities along the Rio Grande Valley for centuries,” said Heinrich. “Numerous residents have shared their concerns with me about the future of these lands and the potential damage that would result from gravel mining. Mineral development would negatively impact public health, quality of life, and water supplies. I look forward to maintaining the momentum of this legislation and working with the community to see it cross the finish line in the 117th Congress.”
“I’m proud to join Senator Heinrich in reintroducing the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, the Pecos Watershed Protection Act, and legislation to establish the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness. Through my work with farmers and ranchers, community leaders, and everyday New Mexicans, I know that preserving our public lands is crucial to growing New Mexico’s outdoor economy and maintaining our way of life,” said Luján. “I’ve always made it a priority to stand up for our land, water, and wildlife corridors, and in the Senate, I’ll continue fighting for to preserve our precious natural resources for future generations.”
The Pecos Watershed Protection Act would withdraw all federally-managed minerals in the watershed and would prevent leasing, patent, or sale of all publicly-owned minerals, including oil and gas as well as gold, silver, copper, and other hard rock minerals.
In November of 2020, the legislation was considered in a key hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining. In the hearing, Senator Heinrich expressed the community support behind the Pecos Watershed Protection Act and how “the Pecos watershed is one of those places where the community has come together and said that the river at the heart of this valley, and at the heart of this community, is literally the most important thing we can protect and pass on to our heirs.” Senator Heinrich also noted that many community members are still reeling from a spill of toxic waste from a closed mine in the 1990s that took decades and millions of dollars to clean up.
Read the full text of the Pecos Watershed Protection Act by clicking here.
Heinrich and Luján’s legislation to establish Cerro de la Olla Wilderness 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 Rio 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 West, and the Rio Grande Gorge down below,” said Heinrich. “These mountains serve as an important wildlife corridor and provide 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 the work to provide the opportunity to expand the monument and protect an iconic New Mexico view shed.”