Our chil­dren need spe­cial places like Río Grande del Norte

Santa Fe New Mexican - - OPINIONS -

It’s good that In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke came to New Mex­ico over the sum­mer to see first­hand some of the spec­tac­u­lar coun­try that could be jeop­ar­dized as part of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s na­tional mon­u­ments re­view.

As the point per­son on that re­view, Zinke said he’d keep an “open mind” on the de­ci­sion — re­leased in late Au­gust but with few de­tails — about whether to scale back or even overturn some pre­vi­ous na­tional mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tions. The re­view in­cludes two mon­u­ments in New Mex­ico: Or­gan Moun­tains-Desert Peaks Na­tional Mon­u­ment near Las Cruces and the Río Grande del Norte Na­tional Mon­u­ment in North­ern New Mex­ico.

While here, Sec­re­tary Zinke flew a he­li­copter over the Or­gan Moun­tains-Desert Peaks Na­tional Mon­u­ment. He also rode horses with New Mex­ico Demo­cratic Sens. Hein­rich and Udall in the Sabi­noso Wilder­ness — not one of the ar­eas un­der re­view but a great ex­am­ple of pub­lic lands that need more pub­lic ac­cess.

I wish that he had come here to ex­pe­ri­ence first­hand the Río Grande del Norte Na­tional Mon­u­ment. In North­ern New Mex­ico, this sweep­ing land­scape feeds our soul and econ­omy. My liveli­hood de­pends on healthy pub­lic lands, such as those pro­tected by the Río Grande del Norte Na­tional Mon­u­ment. The same is true for thou­sands of oth­ers out­door busi­ness own­ers in New Mex­ico, where the out­door recre­ation gen­er­ates 99,000 jobs and $9.9 bil­lion in economic ac­tiv­ity.

I want Sec­re­tary Zinke to un­der­stand a few things about North­ern New Mex­i­cans.

We are a cul­tur­ally di­verse com­mu­nity closely tied to the land, both spir­i­tu­ally and eco­nom­i­cally. For gen­er­a­tions, North­ern New Mex­i­can fam­i­lies have lived on the land and been nur­tured by it. For gen­er­a­tions, fam­i­lies have gath­ered fire­wood and piñon nuts, hunted and fished, and grazed cat­tle on th­ese pub­lic lands.

Th­ese are our tra­di­tions — made pos­si­ble by ac­cess to pub­lic lands — and we cher­ish them.

The town of Questa, near the Río Grande del Norte mon­u­ment, is mov­ing from a min­ing econ­omy (the lo­cal mine’s now shut­tered) to a new econ­omy based on out­door recre­ation and sus­tain­able use of our wildlife, rivers and forests.

In re­cent years, we’ve worked with groups like Trout Un­lim­ited, state agen­cies and other part­ners to re­store a stretch of the Red River im­paired by mine ac­tiv­i­ties. Trout Un­lim­ited’s Rio Grande Com­mu­nity Ini­tia­tive is pro­vid­ing a blue­print for how lo­cal groups and busi­nesses can col­lab­o­rate to nur­ture new recre­ation- and out­door-based busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The 242,500 acres of the Río Grande del Norte Na­tional Mon­u­ment are central to that new vi­sion, pro­tect­ing our tra­di­tional ways while pro­vid­ing the foun­da­tion of a new, for­ward-looking econ­omy.

This stun­ning land­scape also is part of our cul­tural iden­tity. I’ve floated and fished the Rio Grande box many times, and the soar­ing walls of the canyon and sage­brush table­lands shel­ter not only amaz­ing wildlife — bighorn sheep and tur­key and elk — but also pet­ro­glyphs and other cul­tural ar­ti­facts that speak to our an­cient hu­man con­nec­tion to this wild land­scape.

The mon­u­ment for­mally rec­og­nizes and pro­tects our shared her­itage. I hope Sec­re­tary Zinke has left it alone, that he lis­tened to New Mex­i­cans and to the 2.5 mil­lion people who com­mented in sup­port of all na­tional mon­u­ments. Over­whelm­ingly, we have made it clear that Amer­i­cans like our mon­u­ments just the way they are.

Our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren will thank us for keep­ing th­ese spe­cial places in­tact.

Ron Sedall is a guide at Taos Fly Shop.

COURTESY PHOTO

Ron Sedall

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