U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, and Trust for Public Land Celebrate Protection of 3,700 Acres Bolstering Rio Grande del Norte National Monument 

Taos, NM – Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, alongside Senator Martin Heinrich and Representative Teresa Leger Fernández, today celebrated the protection of over 3,700 acres of high-priority lands adjacent to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument [the Monument].

Secretary Haaland, Senators Heinrich and local elected officials, New Mexico Bureau of Land Management [BLM] staff, Taos Pueblo leaders, Taos community members, and the TPL team gathered Sunday at the Taos Country Club to celebrate the acquisition of 3,700 acres from the Klauer Family, their protection and the possible future expansion of the national monument to include these lands.

The newly protected lands, located near the Taos Valley Overlook, enhance public recreation opportunities, secure vital wildlife habitats, and prevent incompatible development. These lands were acquired by TPL and conveyed to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), fortifying the Monument’s boundaries and bolstering public access.

“Today, we are thrilled to celebrate the acquisition of approximately 3,700 acres of land adjacent to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument for recreational access. Thanks to our enduring partnership with Trust for Public Land and with wide support across the community, these new public lands will expand access to the national monument and the exceptional cultural and natural resources it protects,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “This collaborative approach that empowers local communities and brings people together is at the heart of the President’s America the Beautiful initiative. It is how we’re going to meet our ambitious goal to protect 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”

This significant expansion, marking TPL’s 10th project in the area, underscores a two-decade commitment to preserving New Mexico’s natural and cultural heritage.

“This project is the culmination of 20 years of work with the Taos community to protect nationally significant lands at the heart of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument,” said Jim Petterson, TPL’s Mountain West Region Vice President. We are grateful to Secretary Haaland and her leadership, along with Senator Heinrich’s vigorous efforts and the support of local communities, that have helped ensure the protection of this cherished landscape for future generations.”

The newly protected lands will improve public access from the south side of New Mexico Highway 68, expanding trail systems and providing new connections to the Carson National Forest. Additionally, they will enhance the public overlook of the iconic Rio Grande Gorge, a key feature of the Monument’s rugged landscape.

Earlier this year in Congress, Senator Heinrich and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to establish Cerro de la Olla Wilderness within the Monument. That bill also includes language to add the newly acquired public lands announced today to the Monument. The bill advanced out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support this past May.

“When I helped lead the effort to pass the Great American Outdoors Act four years ago, this type of addition to New Mexico’s public lands was exactly what I was fighting for. I’m grateful to all of the local community leaders in Taos, Trust for Public Land, and the Biden Administration for their partnership as we secured this expansion of our public lands system,” said Senator Martin Heinrich. “We have successfully blocked future commercial development near the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, protected a key wildlife corridor, and preserved the beauty of this region. Once we pass my Cerro de la Olla Wilderness bill, we will also add these new public lands to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. I can’t wait for more New Mexicans to see these gorgeous and newly public lands in Taos County.” 

“New Mexico has a long history of being stewards of our public lands and caretakers of the environment – and this announcement will further our state’s efforts. This expansion of more than 3,700 acres will help stimulate local economies by creating more opportunities for recreation while protecting the wildlife and the surrounding areas. I thank Secretary Haaland for leading this expansion effort that will help increase New Mexicans’ access to these lands,” said Senator Ben Ray Luján.

“The expansion of the Rio Grande National Monument helps fulfill our obligation to protect the land for future generations. Now, they will be able to stand at the Taos Valley Overlook and see the Sangre de Cristo Mountains bathed in red sunlight,” said Congresswoman Leger Fernández. “It took a collaborative effort of local, tribal, federal, and private forces to secure the 3,700 acres of land south of Taos. What a great opportunity to protect the sanctity of this land while expanding economic opportunities for Taos.”

This project was made possible through a remarkable collaboration involving Trust for Public Land, New Mexico elected officials, the BLM, the Taos community, the Taos Pueblo, and the Klauer family. Funding included a $4 million Congressionally Designated Spending request secured by Senator Heinrich and additional support from the BLM’s Recreation Access Fund, funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Since its establishment in 2013, the 242,000-acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument has been a beacon of scenic, cultural, and historic preservation, supported by substantial investments from the LWCF.

“The entire Klauer family would like to thank the Trust for Public Land, New Mexico elected officials, the Bureau of Land Management, members of the Taos community and the Taos Pueblo for making this day possible,” said Mike Klauer. “We sincerely wish we could have attended this milestone celebration in person.  Our family has a great affinity and admiration for the people and land of Taos, NM.  This land was purchased by W.H. Klauer over 100 years ago.  His son, the late W.J. Klauer and the patriarch of our family, wished to see it preserved for public use while maintaining the open vistas and scenic character of Taos and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.  We are so proud to have accomplished that mission today.” 

Over the last two decades, TPL has completed ten land acquisition projects in and around the National Monument – protecting over 25,000 acres, creating new trailheads, and improving access points that unlock public lands access. TPL has been instrumental in protecting lands that are the bookends for the Monument – the Taos Valley Overlook and Ute Mountain – as well as critical inholdings within the Monument near Cerro de la Olla.  These projects would not have been possible without the funding provided through the LWCF, which totals nearly $41 million for protection of this iconic and culturally significant landscape.

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 Tribal and Indigenous communities since millennia, as well as the old Hispanos of New Mexico for hunting, grazing, and gathering. 



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 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $94 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org