Cerro Olla Wilderness Bill Progress | Surroundings – Advice Eating

A year-long push by a diverse group of stakeholders wanting federal protection of the wilderness around the Cerro de la Olla caldera in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is gaining momentum, according to the office of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. “Senator Heinrich unanimously sponsored legislation establishing the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico,” Heinrich’s office said in a May 3 news release. “Heinrich’s legislation would preserve traditional uses and provide sanctuary for a variety of wildlife species while maintaining current access routes. The legislation now goes to the Senate for full consideration.” “The area is dear to Senator Heinrich, he hunted moose there,” said Stuart Wilde, a local wilderness guide and conservationist, adding that the “true alpine grasslands” lie within the caldera — at 9,500 feet above sea level — and the high desert grasslands below the caldera provide important habitat for a large migratory herd of moose, among other species. “It’s right in the middle of their east-west migration corridor,” Wilde said. “Rio Grande del Norte has one of the largest herds in winter. We’ve done overflights with members of the congressional delegation and there could be 10,000 moose any day. It’s such a unique ecology compared to the other National Monuments.” An identical House bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández around this time last year. If passed, the bill will become a trifecta of wilderness areas complete within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, a 246,000-acre area on the Taos Plateau created by an executive order issued by President Barack Obama in 2013. Wilde said the national monument was created under federal legislation to establish a National Conservation Area on roughly the same 246,000 acres that had stalled. “When the area became a national monument, part of that was removing the wilderness proposal because that’s a different legal instrument,” he said the Rio Grande del Norte a national monument, and the wilderness was i n another statute, the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act.” In 2018, the state Cerros del Norte Conservation Act established the 13,420-acre Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Area within Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, “But the Cerro de la Olla wilderness was left out,” Wilde said, grateful for Henry’s push to get the reinstated Cerro de la Olla legislation through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which passed last week. Wilde noted that the Rio Grande del Norte Coalition, which was formed in 2007 and continues to campaign for designation as Cerro de la Olla Wilderness, is made up of stakeholders from a variety of Taos County communities, including Taos Pueblo, which accounts for the mountain portion of it sacred ancestral lands. Ranchers, including those with grazing land within the proposed wilderness, as well as environmentalists, hunters, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, business owners and elected local and state officials have expressed support for the designation. “This legislation has garnered the support of a variety of community members as well as the Taos County Commission and Taos Pueblo,” Heinrich said in a statement to Taos News. “Cerro de la Olla provides critical safety habitat for species such as moose, mule deer, black bear and mountain lion. Protecting this impressive volcanic shield and its spectacular views has long been a priority for the Taos community. I am proud that this legislation will go before the full Senate for consideration and will continue the work to expand the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and protect an iconic field of view in New Mexico.” Wilde agreed that there was broad community support for the proposed wilderness designation. “Olla means ‘pot,’ like a vessel,” he said. “And there are several really important archaeological sites on the flanks of these mountains that go all the way back to the Paleolithic people who would have waited there for deer and elk.” It was also very important to the Spanish settlers and the more recent locals, all of whom have long used it for hunting.” Wilderness designation would protect these cultural sites and traditional land uses, including several primitive campsites halfway up the mountainside – and the roads that lead to them.”When we were looking at it [proposed] Wilderness frontiers, I personally was adamant about having cherry stalks — strips of land in wilderness areas where motorized travel is allowed — so the roads can still be used,” Wilde said. “We wanted to make sure people could still use these.” Garrett Vene Klassen, northern director of conservation for New Mexico Wild, called the proposed wilderness designation “more than appropriate.” “I’ve been hunting moose and collecting firewood in and around Cerro Olla for 25 years “, he said. “This remarkable cultural and environmental heritage deserves the highest form of permanent legal protection.”

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