WASHINGTON, D.C. - Several landmark conservation and energy bills championed by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) are included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was finalized today. The critical annual bill is expected to be voted on by the House and Senate before the end of the year.
The New Mexico senators successfully fought to include provisions to designate the Columbine-Hondo as wilderness, transition the Valles Caldera National Preserve to new management to increase public access, and establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Additionally, a measure to extend a pilot program that has helped the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) streamline the oil and gas drilling permit process while strengthening a review system that helps meet environmental and safety standards was also included in the bill language.
These provisions have received overwhelming support from the community and are in a strong position to become law.
"This is an exciting step — we're extremely close to the finish line and being able to protect these beautiful New Mexico landscapes for generations to come," Udall said. "These bills are vital for our economy. Designating the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness, increasing access to Valles Caldera, and dedicating a Manhattan Project historical park will help expand tourism and create jobs, while renewing the BLM permitting program is critical to energy development in Northwestern and Southeastern New Mexico. I want to thank all of the stakeholders and local communities who have worked hard on these proposals for so long — as well as Senator Heinrich who has been a strong partner pushing to get them through the Senate."
"We are closer than ever to making historic gains in protecting some of New Mexico's most treasured landscapes. From designating the Columbine-Hondo as wilderness, increasing public access to the Valles Caldera, and establishing the Manhattan National Historical Park, to streamlining the oil and gas drilling permit process, these provisions will have a significant impact on growing our economy," Heinrich said, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Thanks to years of effort and support from the local communities, our state will have new destinations for families and visitors to enjoy. And cooperation among federal agencies and businesses will help boost job creation and expand domestic energy production."
Senators Udall and Heinrich fought to include provisions in the FY2015 NDAA that would:
Designate the Columbine-Hondo area in Taos County, New Mexico as wilderness. Located in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico, the Columbine-Hondo has been managed as a Wilderness Study Area since 1980. The Columbine-Hondo is one of the most treasured places in the state and a key attraction for the local tourism economy. The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776) would designate the Columbine-Hondo area in Taos County as wilderness. The bill would also expand the Wheeler Peak Wilderness by approximately 650 acres while modifying a boundary in order to create a loop trail accessible by mountain bikes along the Lost Lake trail from Taos Ski Valley to the East Fork trail to Red River. VIDEO: Local residents discuss why they support permanently protecting the Columbine-Hondo and what the area means to them.
Transition the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico to new management to increase public access. The Valles Caldera National Preserve Management Act (S. 285) would transfer management of the Preserve from the current Board of Trustees to the National Park Service (NPS) under a preserve model. Access for hunting and fishing would be mandated under the legislation. The proposal was developed after extensive input from local residents, sportsmen, veterans organizations, business owners, and elected officials.
Establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act (S. 507) would establish three different educational sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington. The park would conserve historic sites and artifacts that played a key role in the dawn of the nuclear era while telling the story of the creation of the world’s first atomic bomb and exploring its consequences for society.
Extend a pilot program that has helped the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) streamline the oil and gas drilling permit process while strengthening a review system that helps meet environmental and safety standards. The BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act (S. 2440) would extend a pilot program that has helped BLM balance complex demands, including oil and gas permitting and environmental management in New Mexico and other parts of the West. The pilot program has helped streamline operations in BLM field offices in Farmington and Carlsbad, New Mexico.