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Heinrich, Udall Introduce Bill To Designate Cerro De La Olla Wilderness

WASHINGTON (Jan. 28, 2020) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to establish Cerro de la Olla Wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico.

For hundreds of years, 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 Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Much like Ute Mountain—protected as wilderness last year—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. I’m proud to join the community to introduce legislation to designate Cerro de la Olla as wilderness to ensure this outdoor treasure is there for future generations.”

“Sitting within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, Cerro de la Olla is a spectacular caldera that carries deep historical, environmental, and recreational importance,” said Udall, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. “Protecting this wilderness safeguards a vital wildlife corridor for treasured species like elk, mountain lions, and migratory birds, and boosts the local outdoor recreation economy. I’m proud to partner with Senator Heinrich, Taos Pueblo, and local community members to give Cerro de Olla the protections it deserves.”

Senator Heinrich and Udall’s legislation has received support from community members, nonprofit organizations, and tribal entities, including:

"As the primary inhabitants of the Taos Valley, the Red Willow People commonly known as the Taos Pueblo, have always recognized the sacredness of Cerro de la Olla, whether spiritual in nature or for the life sustaining resources provided. Our people will continually acknowledge this in perpetuity, therefore it is important that, as an entire broader community, we look to protect the sanctity of Cerro de la Olla," said Taos Pueblo War Chief Gary J. Lujan.

“The Río Grande del Norte National Monument and areas within it like Cerro de la Olla are sacred to our native cultures and are where we hike, camp, and hunt. These lands bring in tourism that is vital to our small businesses and economy. I am fortunate to serve the people of northern New Mexico along with Senator Heinrich as we work to preserve our public lands that show us every day that we truly live in the Land of Enchantment,” said Taos Mayor Dan Barrone.

"Our public lands are a powerhouse for Taos County by drawing in visitors and creating economic growth in our communities. In northern New Mexico we understand that we must all come together to preserve special places like Cerro de la Olla for future generations to enjoy,” said Mark Gallegos, Mayor of the Village of Questa and Taos County Commissioner.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

"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 Senators Heinrich and Udall, 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.

To view the full text of the legislation, click here.