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Pristine: Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

RGDN Brian O'Donnell Conservation Lands Foundation
Rio Grande del Norte (Photo: Brian O'Donnell, Conservation Lands Foundation)

Wild elk, deer, and sheep roam the Southwestern terrain of Rio Grande del Norte. Hundreds of species of migratory birds fly over the land, and the rivers are filled with bass and indigenous fish. There are more than 240,000 square acres of this beautiful wilderness and, after decades of grassroots efforts, it's now part of America’s National Monument system.  Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico is the largest of the five sites that President Obama designated as national monuments yesterday in a special signing ceremony.

This landscape, home to centuries of cultural history, deserves widespread protection, and after 15 years of tough grassroots and political advocacy, Rio Grande del Norte is finally getting the designation it deserves. Local elected officials, business owners, Latino organizations, tribal leaders, and conservation activists have all worked hard to see this area become a national monument. Now, thanks to President Obama and his executive authority under the Antiquities Act, Rio Grande del Norte will be protected for generations to explore and enjoy. A total of 16 presidents -- eight Republicans and eight Democrats -- have used the Antiquities Act more than 130 times to set aside public lands for permanent protection since Congress created the Act in 1906.

There are very few pristine areas like this one, which hosts one of the most diverse landscapes and ecosystems in the country. In addition to priceless wildlife, there are also hundreds of years of Native American and Hispanic culture to protect. With this designation, the cultures and memories of the people who have passed through Rio Grande del Norte for thousands of years will be honored, and those who live there now will not have to worry about losing their valuable resources and rich history to public or private land development.

RGDN beerResidents and visitors to the area will be able to use the land the way people have for hundreds of years: for fishing, hunting, hiking, camping and gathering firewood and traditional herbs.  The area will also be open for many types of tourism and recreation, which adds $3.8 billion dollars to New Mexico's economy every year, and will bring an estimated $15 million to the region locally.

Together with the organizations and elected officials who fought so hard to see this monument protected, the Sierra Club proudly welcomes this designation. Now families and individuals can continue to enjoy the beautiful landscape for its rich history and the activities that bring people closer together. And we'll continue to look to the president to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to build a lasting lands legacy while protecting our nation's most precious landscapes. Thank President Obama for creating this new national monument, along with four others, and ask him to continue to protect America's wild places.

--Kristen Elmore, Sierra Club Media Team Intern


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