Historic Taos Property Protected

September 18, 2012

Today, The Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Forest Service announced that the first section of a historic 5,000-acre property near Taos will be protected by adding it to the Carson National Forest.

The land, just south of Taos, includes part of the Old Spanish Trail, a mule trail which was used as a trade route between New Mexico and California during the mid-1800s. Artifacts from the Pueblo Indians, Spanish settlers, and others have been found on the property. The property also includes the northwest slope of Picuris Peak and is the source of water for the nearby communities of Llano Quemado and Ranchos de Taos.

In January 2011, The Trust for Public Land agreed to buy the 5,000-acre property from Weimer Properties LLC, which represents the families who have owned the land for generations.

The $3.442 million for the first phase of the purchase, 1,742 acres, came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the federal government's main source of money for protecting land. The source of the money is royalties paid by energy companies for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Greg Hiner of The Trust for Public Land said, "We acted to help the local community make sure this outstanding property is never developed. This is a great first step to protect a key piece of land in the Rio Grande watershed and we are thankful for the leadership of the New Mexico congressional delegation and their support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund."

U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM), and U.S. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (D-3) are strong supporters of LWCF and support the efforts to protect the property.

"Miranda Canyon is a perfect to addition to the Carson National Forest. Not only will these beautiful landscapes and historical features be protected for years to come, the public will now be able to enjoy this land for recreational uses. I am very glad the Land and Water Conservation Fund made the acquisition of Miranda Canyon possible, and I thank the U.S. Forest Service and The Trust for Public Land for working together to make this happen," said Sen. Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"This land is of great significance to New Mexico for its history and its importance to the local watershed," said Sen. Udall. "The Old Spanish trail opened a way to the West, and now we will be able to experience the magnificence of this landscape and protect part of the territory our ancestors traveled some 200 years ago. This is great news for the community, and I am happy this area will be enjoyed for many years to come."

"This land is rich with history and is an illustration of the beautiful landscape that makes the Land of Enchantment such a special place," Congressman Luján said. "I am so pleased that this land will be protected for future generations and it is an example of the important impact the Land and Water Conservation Fund has on our communities."

"We think this is a great fit for the Carson, close to Taos and with so many beautiful features," said Diana Trujillo, Carson National Forest acting forest supervisor. "We look forward to working with the local community and others to determine the best way to manage and use this unique area."

The Taos County Commissioner, Andrew Chavez said, "This historic property is an important piece of heritage to our town. I am very proud to have worked with Senators Bingaman and Udall and Rep. Lujan, the US Forest Service, TPL and the many, many local people who wrote letters of support and signed petitions to save this property—without which the conservation of this land would not have been possible."

The property has numerous ridges and peaks which provide great views of the Rio Grande Gorge to the west and Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in New Mexico, to the north.

The land will be open for hunting, camping, hiking, interpretation and horseback riding. The property is also an important watershed that maintains quality and supply of water to the local communities and ultimately feeds into the nationally significant Rio Grande.

Todd Barbee, Project Manager for the Weimer Properties, LLC, said "The Weimer Property shareholders, Roy Cunnygham, Sheri Dea Weimer Brown and Alexander Weimer, heirs of the late Marcia Cunnygham and Mel Weimer, chose to place this extraordinarily beautiful property in conservation hands to honor their parents, and five generations of Taoseños, who have done so much for the City and County of Taos over the many years, beginning with their visionary great-great grandfather Alexander Gusdorf in the 1870's."

For the next phase of the protection effort, the Forest Service is seeking $2.656 million in LWCF money for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Additional LWCF funds will be needed to complete the protection of the property.

The Trust for Public Land is a national land conservation organization which preserves land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways and wilderness areas. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres in 47 states. In New Mexico, TPL is proud to have helped create the Santa Fe Railyards and protect Sun Mountain. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.