Trust for Public Land, Interior Secretary Haaland and Senator Heinrich Celebrate National Public Lands Day at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
Taos, NM – Today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Trust for Public Land [TPL] President Diane Regas, and Senator Martin Heinrich came together at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument to join in celebrating National Public Lands Day and highlighting how public lands and conservation investments from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) have expanded to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and benefitted the region.
“Land has meaning and on National Public Lands Day, we celebrate America’s beautiful and majestic public lands — those irreplaceable natural treasures, like the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, that belong to all of us. Our public lands are ingrained in who we are as people and protecting these places for generations to come is a cornerstone of TPL’s work to get more Americans and communities connected to the outdoors,” said Diane Regas, president and CEO of Trust for Public Land. “That is why I am honored to join with Interior Secretary Haaland and our Federal leaders today to celebrate what public lands and these treasured landscapes represent for so many of us.”
Created in 2013, the over 242,000-acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument was established to protect incredible scenic and historic values, while safeguarding public access, supporting the region’s recreation economy and bolstering surrounding communities. TPL has been instrumental in protecting lands that are the bookends for the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument – the Taos Valley Overlook and Ute Mountain – as well as critical inholdings within the monument near Cerro de la Olla.
Over the last 20 years, TPL has completed over nine land acquisition projects – protecting nearly 22,000 acres to date, creating new trailheads, and improving access points that unlock public lands access in and around the national monument. These projects would not have been possible without the funding provided through the LWCF, which totals nearly $24 million for protection of iconic landscapes, such as Ute Mountain and the Taos Valley Overlook. Further, LWCF funding has supported the addition of over 2,500 acres inside monument boundaries. Securing these lands with LWCF funds ended the threat of incompatible development, improved public access and protected critical elk migration habitat in the region.
“On National Public Lands Day, it’s worth noting that no other country in the world has our history of public land. Protecting our landscapes and making them accessible to anyone no matter the size of your bank account, is uniquely American. Here in New Mexico, we are lucky to have so many public lands with wide-open skies, stunning scenery, complex history, and abundant wildlife,” said Senator Martin Heinrich. “The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is such a fantastic example of the natural beauty and cultural heritage of our state. For years, I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with New Mexicans to champion the national monument designation that has put this region on the map as a must-see destination for locals and visitors alike for hiking, whitewater rafting, hunting, and fishing. I have also been proud to work in close partnership with the Trust for Public Land to expand recreational access and protect even more undeveloped and scenic lands as part of this monument. I passed legislation to establish the Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Areas and the Great American Outdoors Act, which fully and permanently funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund and has helped grow our outdoor recreation economy. Hopefully very soon, thanks to LWCF and the hard work of so many New Mexicans, we will celebrate yet another expansion of our beloved Río Grande del Norte National Monument.”
“Today’s event in the Land of Enchantment was a beautiful reminder of the important role that public lands and waters play in our lives and communities,” said Lesley Kane-Syznal, Chair of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Coalition. “LWCF provides critical funding to conservation and recreation projects from coast to coast, ensuring that everyone can benefit from expanded, equitable access to the outdoors. We are so grateful to Secretary Haaland and New Mexico’s Congressional delegation for their steadfast commitment to permanent, dedicated funding of LWCF and look forward to working with them to support and grow these vital investments that aid our economy, our climate and our quality of life.”
The unique setting of the monument features rugged, wide-open plains dotted by volcanic cones and cut by steep canyons with rivers tucked away in their depths. The 800-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge, and volcanic cones, including 10,093 –foot-tall Ute Mountain, have been used for generations by Native American and Hispanic people for hunting, grazing, and gathering. Today, these lands also are beloved by hikers, campers, and paddlers. Currently, TPL is working to secure additional lands in the region to expand the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, enhance public recreation opportunities, and protect wildlife habitat.
“From the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and the Sabinoso Wilderness to the Santa Fe Railyard Park and L Bar Project, TPL is working to connect everyone to the outdoors,” said Regas. “Today, on National Public Lands Day, we celebrate these places, the partners and the people that make this work possible.”
About Trust for Public Land
Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org.
About the LWCF Coalition
The LWCF Coalition is the umbrella group of more than 1,000 state and local landowners, small businesses, ranchers, sportsmen, veterans, outdoor recreationists and conservation organizations working to protect America’s public lands and safeguard our shared outdoor heritage for future generations. For more information on LWCF and the places in each state that have been protected using LWCF funds, visit LWCFCoalition.org.