180 Acres Protected Southwest of Santa Fe (NM)

Santa Fe, NM, 8/28/2007 — The Trust for Public Land, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today announced the protection of the 178-acre Rael property as part of La Cienega Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). This is the fourth in a series of acquisitions designed to connect existing public space within the ACEC and create an unbroken corridor of protected lands.

La Cienega ACEC is 4,500 acres of ecological and historical sensitive lands just eight miles southwest of Santa Fe. Plans are underway to purchase two more properties nearby, expanding the protection of riparian habitat along a pristine stretch of the Santa Fe River. The Rael property contains over a half mile of the Santa Fe River, as well as cottonwood and coyote willow that provide habitat for wildlife such as the Southwestern willow flycatcher. In addition to wildlife habitat, La Cienega ACEC contains important cultural resources, including the historic El Camino Real and rock art that dates back to the 14th through 17th centuries.

“This property contains significant natural resources worthy of our protection. I’m very glad that we are taking action to preserve it and ensure it remains in its pristine state,” Sen. Bingaman said.

Senator Bingaman joined conservation groups, the local community, and representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and U.S. Congressman Tom Udall for a celebration event at La Cienega ACEC this morning. The event included a brief speaking program and hike into the Santa Fe River canyon and along the historic acequia. At La Cieneguilla Pueblo, also located within the ACEC, visitors can still see prehistoric rock art created by inhabitants and pottery artifacts.

“I am pleased to see that disposal land revenue generated from Title 2 of the Baca Bill is being put to good use on worthwhile projects like La Cienega. This important stretch of land and its ecosystem will now be under the protective watch of the BLM’s Area of Critical Environmental Concern,” said Sen. Domenici. “We have a responsibility to conserve these areas, not only for the protection and preservation of the landscape, but for New Mexican’s continued enjoyment of our state’s natural beauty and ancient culture. I extend my thanks to TPL and the BLM for their hard work in securing this new piece of our magnificent public land system.”

“Years from now, New Mexicans who visit the Rael property will remember the work we did to protect this precious resource,” said Rep. Udall. “By protecting this property, we have not only preserved a beautiful piece of public land, we have saved part of New Mexico’s history so that it can be experienced and understood by future generations.”

“La Cienega is a remarkable resource just minutes from downtown Santa Fe,” said Karyn Stockdale, Acting Director of TPL’s New Mexico Program. “Visitors can follow the river or hike the canyon and experience a bit of our state’s unique cultural and natural heritage. TPL thanks the federal congressional delegation and Governor Richardson for helping protect this special place. We also acknowledge that today’s celebration would not have been possible without the Rael family’s dedication to protecting their historic land and opening it up to the public.”

“I am ecstatic over this new acquisition,” said Linda Rundell, BLM New Mexico State Director. “The property represents the geographic heart of La Cienega Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Over a half mile of the Santa Fe River crosses the parcel, flowing through a 200 to 400 foot deep canyon. The historical resources and unique environmental conditions made this an extremely important purchase for New Mexico.”

Funds for purchase of the property, valued at over $2.2 million, came from the Federal Land Transactions Facilitation Act (FLTFA). FLTFA allows receipts from lands sold by the BLM which were identified for disposal in land use plans to be used to acquire private inholdings within National Parks, National Forests, and BLM conservation areas. Earlier this year, the State Legislature passed and Governor Richardson approved $200,000 of Capital Outlay funds for land, wildlife, and clean energy initiatives for this acquisition.

The 178 acres were acquired through two separate transactions. TPL bought and held the first 98-acre parcel earlier this year to prevent its eminent development. It was conveyed to the Bureau of Land Management, along with an additional 80-acre parcel, on August 15th.

T0e Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has protected more than 2 million acres across the country and in New Mexico, TPL has helped protect over 140,000 acres.