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President Barack Obama is designating five new national monuments, using executive authority to protect historic or ecologically significant sites — including one in Delaware sought by Vice President Joe Biden.
The White House said Obama would make the designations Monday, using the century-old Antiquities Act to protect unique natural and historic landmarks. The sites are Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; First State National Monument in Delaware; Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland; Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio; and San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington State.
The largest site is Río Grande del Norte in New Mexico, where Obama will designate nearly 240,000 acres for protection. The site includes wildlife habitat valued by hunters and anglers; rafting, camping, and other recreation; and is prized by the region’s Hispanic and tribal groups.
Advocates say the new monument in New Mexico, to be run by the U.S Bureau of Land Management, will contribute an estimated $15 million a year in economic benefits to the area.
Hispanic leaders and organizations, small business owners and the Taos and Mora Valley Chambers of Commerce, sportsmen and ranchers, Taos Pueblo and elected officials, and conservation organizations came together to ask President Obama to permanently protect the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau.
“The Wilderness Society applauds Obama for protecting the Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument,” said Michael Casaus, New Mexico director at The Wilderness Society in Albuquerque. “The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument will boost New Mexico’s economy and protect our culture and way of life for generations to come.”
The designation of the Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument fulfills a longtime goal of New Mexicans who treasure the area northwest of Taos for its diverse wildlife, iconic Western landscapes and importance to the economy, hunters and anglers, said Max Trujillo of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
“This designation would provide permanent protection that is long overdue for this incredible area,” Trujillo said. “It will ensure that the outdoor traditions of northern New Mexicans can continue on into the future, and protect the lands and rivers that so many people rely on for food, recreation and livelihood.”
“Today, the president has acknowledged the importance of the Rio Grande del Norte area to our nation’s biodiversity. Permanently protecting this Important Bird Area will ensure that critical migratory paths for iconic species like falcons and eagles will remain intact,” said Audubon New Mexico Executive Director Karyn Stockdale. “The Rio Grande Gorge is the lifeblood of a vibrant ecosystem and recreation economy that is absolutely critical to New Mexico’s way of life. Monday’s designation by President Obama will protect the interests of both wildlife and people, while ensuring a rich legacy for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”