WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, delivered the following opening remarks in a Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining hearing on bills he introduced to designate portions of the Gila River as Wild and Scenic and establish Cerro de la Olla Wilderness within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
Senator Heinrich’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Chairman Lee, Ranking Member Wyden, thank you for including two bills important to New Mexico on today’s agenda.
The M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild & Scenic River Act would permanently protect some of the most dynamic and spectacular rivers and streams in our country.
The Gila and San Francisco Rivers are the beating heart of southwest New Mexico and are home to some of the most spectacular places in the west, full stop.
This legislation is the result of many years of advocacy by community members who want to see their local rivers protected, and I was quite happy to join Senator Udall in both drafting and introducing this legislation in response to the overwhelming community support.
We named the bill in honor of my friend, Dutch Salmon, a writer, an angler, conservationist, and the Gila’s most ardent defender, who passed away last year.
The Gila is wild and free today, undammed and undiverted in no small part because of Dutch’s decades and decades of work to keep it that way; this legislation will make sure it will stay that way for generations to come.
The second bill for New Mexico on today’s agenda is a bill to designate Cerro de la Olla as a wilderness area.
Cerro de la Olla, with a peak of nearly 10,000 feet, is the home of some of the best elk habitat in northern New Mexico.
I know that because I hunted this unit just last fall.
This legislation is supported by 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 and I’m glad that this bill is moving forward today.
Thank you to the witnesses testifying today, including both New Mexicans, and thank you Chairman Lee and Ranking Member Wyden for including these bills on the docket today.