600-Acre Purchase Completes Ute Mountain Protection (NM)

TAOS COUNTY, NM, 1/25/2008: The Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today the protection of 600 acres along the southern flank of Ute Mountain. The property is located just south of the 14,000-acre Ute Mountain parcel conserved by TPL and the BLM in 2005. It was the last private parcel within a 42 square mile area in and around Ute Mountain. This acquisition completes the protection of one of New Mexico’s most notable landscapes, ensuring the spectacular views and recreational opportunities remain for generations to come. The property will be managed by the BLM for recreation and wildlife habitat.

I am ecstatic about this new addition to the Ute Mountain area,” says Linda S.C. Rundell, New Mexico BLM State Director. “Once again TPL has worked with BLM in the public’s best interest to obtain this wonderful property. We look forward to working with the public on how to manage and protect this iconic landscape for recreation and wildlife.”

The property is bordered on two sides by BLM lands. To the south and east are New Mexico State Lands. Privately owned for decades, it was the missing puzzle piece in a 42 square mile corridor of protection lands along the Rio Grande. Its purchase protects the significant public investment in the Ute Mountain area ensuring the natural and scenic resources are safe from nearby development.

“Regional treasures like Ute Mountain are a priority for The Trust for Public Land,” said Jenny Parks, New Mexico Director for The Trust for Public Land. “Today we’ve secured the future of an iconic New Mexican landscape. This purchase closes an important gap and moves us one step closer to permanently protecting this important corridor, but there is more to do. Our Rio Grande Protection program aims to conserve vital riverfront land throughout the state.”

Funds for the purchase of the property came from the Bureau of Land Management through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Those funds were secured by New Mexico’s congressional delegation, including Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, and Congressman Tom Udall, all of who support LWCF and serve on committees with jurisdiction over public land policies and funding. Bingaman and Domenici are chairman and ranking member, respectively, on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Domenici and Udall also serve on the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees that fund the Interior Department and LWCF.

“Completing the push to acquire Ute Mountain is the result of years of effort and a very good example of the benefits of working cooperatively to do the right thing. I think generations to come will be able to enjoy this uniquely beautiful and wildlife-rich region of New Mexico. I’m happy I could play a role in helping get this done,” Senator Domenici said.

“Ute Mountain is one of the special places in New Mexico, and I am pleased to see that it is now in public hands for all to enjoy. It is my hope that New Mexicans take advantage of this new addition to our nation’s public lands,” said Senator Bingaman.

“I am extremely pleased that together we succeeded in acquiring the remaining piece of this truly unique landscape and habitat area on the southern base of Ute Mountain,” said Representative Udall. “This acquisition ensures that future generations of New Mexicans will be able to enjoy the unparalleled views and recreational opportunities indefinitely. Congratulations to The Trust for Public Land and the Bureau of Land Management for their commitment to conserving this special place.”

At the border of Colorado and New Mexico, Ute Mountain rests on the basalt plateau of the San Luis Basin. It sits on the eastern edge of the Rio Grande Gorge, towering 3,000 feet above the surrounding plains to a height of 10,093 feet above sea level. The land provides critical habitat for Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Prairie Falcon, and Great Horned Owl. To the west of Ute Mountain, the Rio Grande cuts a spectacular gorge and provides an excellent whitewater experience for both private and commercial river runners.

The 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 two million acres across the country, and in New Mexico TPL has helped protect over 140,000 acres.