WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource, led in advancing legislation to protect wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico. The Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Act, introduced by Senator Heinrich and U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), passed the full Senate today with unanimous support. The bill establishes two new wilderness areas, the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness, within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.
"From the tops of Cerro de la Olla and Ute Mountain, to the depths of the Rio Grande Gorge, the Río Grande del Norte is one of the most spectacular places on earth," Heinrich said. "New Mexico's community-driven monuments permanently protected iconic landscapes that have long been revered. This legislation will further complete the vision of the diverse coalition and stakeholders who fought so hard to protect the Río Grande del Norte National Monument and will preserve traditional practices and boost New Mexico's growing outdoor recreation economy. By designating the most rugged and unique habitat in the Río Grande del Norte as wilderness, we can protect New Mexico's natural heritage for our children and for generations to come."
“Designating the Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio areas as wilderness is a final step toward protecting the Río Grande del Norte's deep heritage, traditional practices and treasured landscapes that Northern New Mexicans and countless visitors have cherished for generations,” Udall said. “Passage of this bill is thanks to the strong grassroots network of supporters and the coalition of local stakeholders — including sportsmen and small business owners — who have worked for years to create this monument and preserve these special places for generations to come.”
The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is widely supported by Taos county residents, who have seen major economic activity since designation in 2013. A year after the national monument was designated, it was reported that the town of Taos lodgers' tax revenue increased by 21 percent in the second half of 2013, compared with the same time period in 2012. In addition, gross-receipts revenue to businesses in Taos County in the accommodations and food service sector rose 8.3 percent in the second half of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, representing an increase of $3.7 million.
The Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Act passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in March. The bill now must be passed by the House of Representatives before being signed into law.
A map of the proposed wilderness areas is available here.