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LAKE VALLEY — On a map of New Mexico, about 7 inches by 7 inches, there are just a few splashes of color, just big enough to put your fingertip on.
“You see all those red things here?” asked wildlife biologist Randy Gray, gesturing to the colored specks peppering the map. “Those are the only places where they’ve measured (that) are two miles or more from a road. We don’t need more roads.”
After a recent Saturday morning quail hunt on John Cornell’s land in the Mimbres Mountain foothills, Gray and seven other area sportsmen sat down at Gray’s home with U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., to ask him to support legislation to add 259,000 more acres to those protected areas. Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced that chamber’s version of the wilderness protection bill — the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act.
With $165 million spent on hunting and fishing per year in the state, he added, keeping that land protected makes economic sense.
Those against the bill have refused to compromise, said John Moen, chairman of the Southwestern New Mexico chapter of Quail Unlimited and the owner of Trophy Country in Las Cruces.
With the area’s population explosion, Steve Henry of Las Cruces, president of the Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen and retired New Mexico Department of Game and Fish fisheries chief, said the legislation was vital before it was too late.
“Sooner or later, we’re going to be a Tucson or a Phoenix,” Henry said.