Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Great Victory for the Wild and Scenic Rio Grande!

U.S. Senator Tom Udall shares the victory aqui in Taos.

Cisco Guevara, river runner, congratulates Taoseños.
Monday, March 25, 2013 marks a great victory for those who love the Rio Grande. After years of unrelenting effort involving many groups and individuals, President Obama signed a proclamation to designate Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. The courtroom at the Taos County Courthouse was packed to the walls with those who came to celebrate and applaud U.S. Senator Tom Udall who sponsored legislation in Congress to protect BLM land along the northern stretch of the Rio Grande. He also thanked retired U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman for his support and organizations such as Rivers and Birds and the Rio Grande del Norte Coalition, created by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

Individuals who make their living along the river also had a chance to express their gratitude. Cisco Guevara, called by
The Taos News, “the poster child” for conservationists, is a sturdy man with a white beard who wears a big floppy hat. Udall introduced him as a man whose roots in the community go back 400 years. Guevara says that he listens to the water day after day, and “the water is thirsty.” He should know. As one of the owners of Los Rios River Runners, he spends most of his days rafting in the Rio Grande Gorge, so he is well aware of problems with the flow of the Rio Grande due to growing demands for water and drought in New Mexico.

The proposal for the National Monument was designed to protect a quarter of a million remote acres in Taos and Rio Arriba counties. When Congress gridlocked over the bill, Senator Udall, retired Senator Bingaman, Representative Ben Ray Lujan and Senator-elect Martin Heinrich urged President Obama to use his special powers to make the designation under the Antiquity Act.

Udall said, “Taos is usually contentious, but on this issue, everyone united.” He was happy to see a diversity of cultures represented in the audience and joined in the prayer offered by War Chief Samuel Gomez from Taos Pueblo. Traditional uses such as woodcutting and grazing and already established mining will be allowed to continue, but no new roads may be built within the area and no future growth will be allowed on public lands. According to the Albuquerque Journal, “ . . . monument designation will ensure that development such as oil and gas or mining will not occur.”

Thanks, +President Obama!


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