The Taos News: United for wilderness in Taos County

During their Saturday (Feb. 16) visit, Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, all Democrats from New Mexico, heard from those who would like to see full wilderness protection for the 46,000-acre Columbine-Hondo area north of Taos. Several dozen wilderness supporters, including elected officials, business owners and nonprofit representatives, gathered at the Rivers and Birds offices in Arroyo Seco to hear legislative updates and urge federal action to protect the Columbine-Hondo.

The Columbine-Hondo was designated a Wilderness Study Area three decades ago. Last year, then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, introduced legislation to bring full wilderness protection to the area, but it did not pass. Michael Casaus, state director for the Wilderness Society, said the 112th Congress was the first in decades not to protect a single acre of wilderness.

Questa Mayor Esther García said village residents respect public lands as communal property, and she supports the creation of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness as a way to protect watersheds and traditional uses of the land. Taos Town Councilor Andrew Gonzales described the Columbine-Hondo as a “major watershed” with historical, cultural and economic significance.

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