WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M) welcomed the completion of the process to accept the Wilderness Land Trust's donation of 3,595 acres, known as the Rimrock Rose Ranch, to the American people. The property is adjacent to Sabinoso Wilderness in New Mexico and is now part of the wilderness area. The donation includes a road easement that provides the public with access to the wilderness for the very first time.
Created in 2009 through legislation championed by Udall, Heinrich, Luján and former Senator Jeff Bingaman, the Sabinoso Wilderness was surrounded by private land and was therefore inaccessible without trespassing on private property. Located on just over 16,000 acres in San Miguel County, the rugged Sabinoso Wilderness includes scenic canyons and mesas, which are home to a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, mountain lions and wild turkey. Its dramatic landscape includes the 1,000-foot tall Canyon Largo and several impressive rock formations.
Last year, the Wilderness Land Trust purchased the Rimrock Rose Ranch in order to donate the land to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) so it can be added to the existing wilderness and allow for public access to the entire area. The New Mexico lawmakers have been urging the Department to take the final steps to accept the donation and the current terms of the Sabinoso Public Access Plan.
In June, Heinrich invited Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to visit the community and hear directly from New Mexicans about the overwhelming public benefits of acquiring this land. In July, Secretary Zinke joined Heinrich and Udall on horseback to ride into Canyon Largo with local sportsmen, public land advocates, and community leaders.
"This decision is a major win for New Mexico's hikers, hunters, sportsmen and women, and lovers of the outdoors, who will finally have public access to the Sabinoso Wilderness," Udall said. "Today's announcement is thanks to the efforts of so many New Mexicans who worked collaboratively for years to unlock this beautiful New Mexico landscape for all to enjoy. Opening up Sabinoso to the public will allow our state to harness the potential of a stunning landscape and empower New Mexico to continue to grow our thriving outdoor recreation economy. I thank the Wilderness Land Trust for its tireless work and generosity in helping to unlock Sabinoso, and I am grateful to Secretary Zinke for seeing the value of this pristine land firsthand and making a wise decision for our state and the nation."
"I am proud to announce that the Sabinoso Wilderness will finally be unlocked - allowing the public to experience this stunning landscape that we all own. This is a major gain for New Mexico and would not be possible without the generosity of the Wilderness Land Trust and the dedication of the local community and sportsmen who have championed this effort for many years," said Heinrich. "Traditions like hunting, hiking, and fishing are among the pillars of Western culture and a thriving outdoor recreation economy. Through this collaborative effort to create public access to the Sabinoso we will ensure that outdoor enthusiasts from near and far can finally experience all that this special landscape has to offer and safeguard it for our children and all future generations."
“I am pleased that the process of donating this land and at long last, providing access to the Sabinoso Wildernerss for the people of New Mexico has finally been completed. I want to extend my appreciation to the Wilderness Land Trust and to the local groups who worked diligently to see this effort through,” said Luján. “New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment because of our people, beautiful landscapes, clear skies, and fresh air. By preserving this land and providing access to Sabinoso, New Mexicans will continue to enjoy these areas for generations to come.”
"We've been working on creating access to the Sabinoso Wilderness since it was proposed for designation in 2009," said Brad Borst, President of The Wilderness Land Trust. "We deeply appreciate the Secretary of the Interior coming to see the project in August and learning how important it is to sportsmen, the people of San Miguel County and New Mexico. He's been open to and willing to support local and regional needs here, and we appreciate and acknowledge that support. We are also very grateful to U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico for their outstanding leadership to see this project completed for the benefit of all Americans who value and utilize our cherished public lands. The Sabinoso Wilderness is a great place to hike, hunt, ride horseback and explore."
Sportsmen, outfitters, conservation organizations, local residents, and small business owners have overwhelmingly supported the Sabinoso Public Access Plan and welcomed the announcement that the public can now visit this unique landscape.
John Olivas, JACO Outfitters:
"After the designation of Sabinoso Wilderness in March of 2009, it is with great pride that the area will be accessible to the public and San Miguel County will finally benefit economically from the public gaining access to this wonderful landscape."
Max Trujillo, San Miguel County Resident:
"The now accessible Sabinoso Wilderness is a great addition to our National Public Lands system. We the sportsmen are forever grateful to the Wilderness Land Trust and the Bureau of Land Management for their cooperation to make access to our Sabinoso Wilderness a reality."
Rock Ulibarri, San Miguel County Commission Chairman:
"Access to the Sabinoso Wilderness is essential to our culture, traditions, and history."
Garrett VeneKlasen, New Mexico Wildlife Federation Executive Director:
"The Sabinoso Wilderness is one of the most unique and picturesque landscapes in all of New Mexico and the southwest. Creating public access to this area, which is filled with incredible wildlife and biodiversity, provides not only an amazing opportunity for sportsmen and outdoor recreationalists, but also will greatly benefit the local, regional and state economy."
Jason Amaro, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Southwest Chapter Coordinator:
"Sportsmen and Sportswomen have fought to hunt and hike in the Sabinoso and it has finally happened. It has been a long and dusty road, but now we can finally access this wilderness. This is a perfect example of how groups can work together for the greater good. Access to the Sabinoso Wilderness isn't about me or my generation, it is about future generations. We will all have the opportunity to spend time in some of New Mexico's most amazing backcountry."
Christine Gonzales, Artemis Co-Founder:
"Access to the only landlocked wilderness in the country just makes sense. Public land users will now have a new place to explore and enjoy recreational opportunities. Communities in San Miguel County will get an economic boost too."
Jeremy Vesbach, Conservation Lands Foundation Field Director
"Senators Heinrich and Udall have been tireless in their work to get Sabinoso re-opened for the public to enjoy. This is a big boost to our outdoor economy and our outdoor way of life in New Mexico, and it could not have happened without the incredible generosity of the Wilderness Land Trust. We appreciate Secretary Zinke approving a good deal for the average hunter and hiker. We will now have new access to an incredible piece of New Mexico's public lands. I can't wait to get out there hunting with my family, and many others are ready to experience this incredible place as well."