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On Tuesday evening, more than 10,000 New Mexicans joined a telephone town hall meeting with Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), local community leaders, and the Sierra Club to celebrate President Barack Obama’s recent decision to permanently protect the state’s Rio Grande del Norte region as a new national monument.
During the hour-long event, Senator Heinrich and Congressman Luján were joined by Questa Mayor Esther Garcia, Mora County Commissioner John Olivas, and Rivers & Birds Executive Director Roberta Salazar for a discussion of what the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument means to New Mexico. New Mexicans participating in the call also had the opportunity to ask questions and get more information about the designation.
“I would like to thank the New Mexico Sierra Club for hosting a virtual town hall meeting to connect with thousands of constituents across the state to celebrate the designation of our new national monument,” Heinrich said. “The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is a prime example of what can happen when local communities, businesses, sportsmen, tribes, elected officials, land grant heirs and others come together to build a brighter future for all New Mexicans.”
Support for permanently protecting Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument grew consistently in the months before President Obama’s official announcement on March 25, with veterans, sportsmen, businesses, grazing permitees, Native American, Hispanic and conservation voices speaking out in favor of the designation.
“Thank you to the Sierra Club for providing this wonderful opportunity to speak with thousands of New Mexicans about what the Rio Grande del Norte national monument designation means for them and for the surrounding communities,” Congressman Ben Ray Luján said. “As one of the crowning jewels of New Mexico, this land will be protected for generations to come while enabling the people of New Mexico to enjoy all that it has to offer — from hunting and fishing to traditional and cultural uses.”
Public support for protecting the region was also clear at a public meeting convened by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in December by and another in February featuring Senators Udall and Heinrich and Congressman Luján. Heinrich, Udall, and Luján also introduced legislation to protect the more than 240,000 acres around the Rio Grande River and the rich wilderness that surrounds it in Northern New Mexico.
“New Mexicans were loud and clear in calling for a new national monument at Rio Grande del Norte — and Senators Udall and Heinrich, and Congressman Luján listened by urging the President to act,” said Sierra Club’s Legislative Director Debbie Sease, who emceed Tuesday’s call. “Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, this new monument means protection for one of our nation’s crown jewels, preserved recreation opportunities, and new jobs and economic growth for New Mexicans.”
-Trey Pollard is a member of the Sierra Club