Trust for Public Land, Partners Announce Protection of Historic L Bar Property

The 54,000-acre project will contribute significantly to New Mexico’s conservation goals, by protecting biodiversity and landscapes sacred to the state’s Native American communities

June 2, 2022
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.

Today, Trust for Public Land announces the acquisition of two adjoining properties that make up the L Bar project and the phased conveyance of the 54,000 acres to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to become part of the adjacent Marquez Wildlife Area. With this acquisition, the Marquez Wildlife Area will be the largest state-owned recreation property in New Mexico. The L Bar property will formally open to the public at a future date. 

“The L Bar property means so much culturally, ecologically, and recreationally and to see it protected is a huge victory for the people of New Mexico,” said Jim Petterson, VP Mountain West Region for Trust for Public Land. “We’re honored to play a role in working with Native American communities, Governor Lujan Grisham, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, and New Mexico residents in the effort to preserve this sacred landscape.” 

"I am thrilled to welcome the single greatest new addition to New Mexico's protected public lands in a generation,” said Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). “The high mesas, dramatic volcanic cones, and wide-open valleys of this stunningly beautiful landscape near the iconic Mt. Taylor are home to cultural sites for the Pueblos of Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni, and the Navajo Nation. There is also abundant habitat teeming with wildlife, including large herds of elk that range from its northeastern foothills all the way to the plateau of Mt. Taylor. I am deeply grateful to all of the partners including Trust for Public Land, Tribal Nations, and the State of New Mexico who have made this incredible example of landscape-scale conservation happen. This landscape was also protected for future generations thanks in large part to federal dollars from the Pittman-Roberston Wildlife Restoration Act. I can't wait for New Mexicans to see just how special this place is." 

Ranging in elevation from 6,000 feet in the valleys to over 9,000 feet on the high mesas, L Bar makes for a climate resilient landscape, providing species the ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The acquisition of this property builds on commitment from Governor Lujan Grisham and key New Mexico legislators to honor New Mexico’s traditional land uses while promoting biodiversity, encouraging recreation opportunities and protecting watersheds. 

"My administration committed $31 million, much of which came from funds provided by New Mexico’s hunters and anglers, to conserve this 54,000-acre ranch that will benefit elk, pronghorn, deer, cougars and bears through habitat management,” said Governor Lujan Grisham. “I remain dedicated to protecting and conserving lands for all New Mexicans to enjoy. As the world and New Mexico becomes more urban, it is critical that we conserve wild spaces. Conserving the L Bar Ranches and the existing Marquez Wildlife Management Area is an important step in this process. Together they create over 68,000 acres that protect migration corridors and enhance wildlife conservation in New Mexico.” 

"Public lands are central to New Mexicans and our way of life,” said Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces). “The Marquez Wildlife Area expansion will restore access and stewardship to land that is sacred to our tribes, nations and pueblos. All of its big game hunts will go to New Mexicans, while ushering in new recreation and conservation opportunities. I'm proud that our legislature supported this effort that will benefit New Mexicans in perpetuity." 

The project actively was supported by a number of tribes in the state. The existing Mt. Taylor Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) encompasses half of the site, which is listed on the New Mexico Register of Historic Places due to its importance to as many as 30 Native American tribes. The area has special significance to the TCP nominators: Pueblos of Acoma, Laguna, Zuni, the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation. The traditional cultural property is a landscape that features important elements of the nominating Tribes’ cultural understandings of Mount Taylor, including the summit, surrounding mesas and canyons, and the area between a various volcanic necks (or “guardians”) surrounding the mountain. 

Theresa Pasqual, a program director of Pueblo of Acoma, said that Mount Taylor— near where the L Bar property is located —has always had an important role in the life and culture of her community. "It's a dormant volcano that lies just to the north of Pueblo of Acoma," she said. "It's significant to Acoma in terms of how we orient ourselves to the landscape. This particular mountain is associated with the cardinal direction of north, and there is associated religious and cultural significance tied to it." 

Generations ago, she said, before L Bar became privately owned, the Acoma people would have used the natural resources there, such as timber, plants, and wildlife. The upper portion of the property would also have provided important lookouts in all directions, helping Pueblo members see distant communities and potential trade routes, as well as migration paths of elk and deer.  

"The purchase and protection of the L Bar property represent the potential for younger generations of Acoma children who have never seen those lands to now have a chance to get reacquainted with them," Pasqual added. 

“The relationship with the land, as Native Americans, we are the stewards of the land. We maintain this harmony with Mother Earth through culture and prayer. It is our responsibility to protect and preserve our land for future generations,” said Laguna Pueblo Governor Martin Kowemy. 

“Prior to becoming privately owned, the area in and around the L Bar ranch was used by the Pueblo for traditional cultural and ceremonial purposes,” said Pueblo of Acoma Governor Randall Vicente. “Pilgrimage trails are still evident along with geographic line of sight connections to the Sandia and Manzano mountains. The Pueblo is hopeful that once the purchase is completed an ethnographic study can be conducted to identify areas, locations, and sites of cultural significance.” 

The property also provides habitat for numerous animals and plants, including the Mt. Taylor elk herd and the threatened Mexican spotted owl. The project sits near both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, two of New Mexico’s most populous cities, and its protection will create greater opportunities for outdoor access for locals, who love to camp, hike, horseback ride, or bird. 

Trust for Public Land, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through a grant from Walmart’s Acres for America Program were instrumental partners on ensuring the protection of this property. Additional support was provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Little Orchard Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, and other private donors.  

“We are proud to support the state of New Mexico and the other project partners in making this significant expansion of the Marquez State Wildlife Area possible,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “This is another inspiring example of Walmart’s Acres for America Program and its impact, both for wildlife and for local communities.” 

“The L-Bar addition to what will now be the largest wildlife management area in New Mexico ensures that more than 50,000 additional acres will now forever be protected,” said Jesse W. Deubel Executive Director at New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “New Mexico residents will enjoy world-class hunting here while outdoor recreationists from around the country will travel here to enjoy the unmatched natural beauty and celebrate the rich cultural history of this region.” 

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