Sabinoso Wilderness Area Expands by Nearly 50 Percent

July 17, 2021
SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, NM.

Today The Trust for Public Land, along with regional partners and elected officials, announced the official expansion of the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in northeast New Mexico. This is the largest land donation to a federal wilderness area in U.S. history.

Working with New Mexico leadership for over a decade, including then-Representative Tom Udall and now-Senator Martin Heinrich, The Trust for Public Land has now conveyed the entire 9,855 acre Cañon Ciruela property to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), expanding the existing Sabinoso Wilderness Area, and increasing public access to the formerly hard-to-access public land. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland also supported this effort and officially accepted the land donation this month.

"With this addition, the Sabinoso Wilderness Area will grow by nearly 50 percent, giving nearby communities and visitors alike more access to the outdoors and nature,” said Diane Regas, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “We are grateful for support from Secretary Haaland, Senator Heinrich, the Wyss Foundation, Walmart’s Acres for America program through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Bureau of Land Management for their efforts to protect this important and unique landscape for generations to come."

This remarkably beautiful and little-known landscape has a history of very limited access due to surrounding private property. Visitors and residents of the nearby community of Las Vegas, New Mexico will benefit from increased outdoor recreation activities in this wilderness area protected from vehicle traffic.

The public has only had access to the Sabinoso Wilderness since 2017 when a land donation of 3,600 acres from the Wilderness Land Trust provided a way for the public to enter the property. The wilderness area was designated in 2009.

“Our goal is to ensure future generations experience wilderness landscapes resilient to the impacts of a changing climate,” said Brad Borst, president of The Wilderness Land Trust. “We acquire land to ensure wilderness areas remain ecologically intact, biologically diverse and well-connected to adjacent wildlands. Our work in the Sabinoso Wilderness opened public access and increased the size of the designation by 25 percent in 2017 and we welcome our partnership with The Trust for Public Land that has resulted in additional acreage being added to this beautiful New Mexico landscape.”

The Cañon Ciruela donation and expansion of the Sabinoso Wilderness area is one small step towards achieving the goal of protecting 30% of the country by 2030. In addition to committing to the goal of protecting 30x30, the “American the Beautiful” report commissioned by the Biden-Harris Administration also highlights the need to “create more parks and safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities.”

“I am grateful for Secretary Haaland’s support of the largest wilderness land donation in U.S. history, which will open up a second public access point to the Sabinoso and provide even greater opportunities for outdoor recreation. This is a major gain for New Mexico and would not be possible without the generosity of the Trust for Public Land and the dedication of the local community and sportsmen who have championed this effort for years,” said Heinrich. “Increasing access to the Sabinoso is an important economic opportunity for Las Vegas and surrounding communities in San Miguel County. And it couldn’t come at a better time as we rebuild our tourism and outdoor recreation industries in our state.”

The Trust for Public Land also received support from partners the Wyss Foundation and the Walmart’s Acres for America program through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to complete this acquisition.

“Thanks to New Mexico’s elected leaders, working alongside the state’s conservation partners, tens of thousands of public lands acres within the Sabinoso Wilderness are now permanently conserved and open for hikers, hunters, and solitude seekers to enjoy,” said Molly McUsic, President, The Wyss Foundation. “By replicating and accelerating community-driven conservation success stories like the Sabinoso, which expands opportunities for people to get outside and safeguards critical wildlife habitat, we can succeed in our efforts to stop the loss of nature and provide equal access for all American’s to share in the wonders of natural world.”

“This addition to BLM’s Sabinoso Wilderness shows the powerful role public-private partnerships play in safeguarding our nation’s natural habitats, sustaining wildlife populations and increasing opportunities for the public to connect with nature,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “This historic achievement could only have been accomplished through collaboration among public agencies such as BLM, private conservation nonprofits and private-sector partners such as Walmart.”

In 2020, The Trust for Public Land purchased 8,947 acres with plans to donate it to the Bureau of Land Management as an addition to the wilderness area. In March of 2021, The Trust for Public Land acquired an additional 908 acres from the Wilderness Land Trust to add to the donation, nearly doubling its size.

About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

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