On March 25th 2013, President Obama acted to protect 240,000 acres of the Rio Grande del Norte region of New Mexico through a national monument designation. This crown jewel area will now have the protection needed to preserve critical animal habitat, and recreational areas for future generations. It is a popular decision as local communities supported this designation, as it will ensure traditional ways of life in Northern New Mexico for residents, sportsmen and ranchers, and protect the waters of the Rio Grande River. In May 2015, Senators Heinrich and Udall introduced a bill to establish two wilderness areas within the monument. The two proposed wilderness areas – the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness –would comprise 21,420 acres within the 242,500-acre national monument. Recognizing the Cerro de Yuta and Rio San Antonio areas as wilderness is a final step toward protecting the Río Grande del Norte’s deep heritage and treasured landscapes, all while creating jobs and boosting the tourism economy in northern New Mexico.
New Mexico’s Río Grande del Norte offers some of the state’s most spectacular lands — iconic landscapes that shape our nation’s vision of the West. From the stunning cliffs of the Río Grande Gorge to the skyline-dominating Ute Mountain, the area’s natural splendor makes it a renowned destination, with the area’s wildflower-covered plains, forested slopes, and the snow-capped peaks of the San Juan Mountains in the distance. Río Grande del Norte is essential wildlife habitat, composing part of the Rio Grande Migratory Flyway, one of the world’s great migratory bird routes. This migratory route is especially significant for sandhill cranes, ospreys, herons, hummingbirds, and merlins that pass through the region. The Rio Grande del Norte is home to elk, deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, golden eagles, sandhill cranes and peregrine falcons. This is an archeologically rich area holding thousands of sites that preserve the record of at least 11,000 years of human presence.
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