Friday, April 20, 2012

Additions to New Mexico's Wilderness Areas - The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act

Columbine Hondo WSA
Outgoing Senator Jeff Bingaman announced earlier last week his intent to introduce congressional legislation that would designate the current Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area as permanently protected Wilderness. The 46,000 alpine expanse stretches between Taos Ski Valleyand Red River in the Carson National Forest, book-ended by the Wheeler Peak Wilderness to the south and the Latir Peak Wilderness to its north. Originally designated as a Wilderness Study Area in the New Mexico Wilderness Act of 1980, the status of the area's management purpose has been in limbo for the last 30yrs.

New wilderness and permanent protection of roadless areas is a good thing, definitely something I can get behind. In practice however, none of this is going to create a noticeable change in the character of the area as it is now or as it has been since 1980. The real kicker to the proposed legislation is the following - in addition to the possible new wilderness protections, the legislation would also designate a portion of the land as a National Recreation Area to allow for the preservation of existing bike trails in the East Fork/Middle Fork area and for the added purpose of constructing a new backcountry trail that would connect the trails in and around Taos Ski Valley to the system of trails in Red River. Managers of the Carson National Forest have already committed to working with folks in the cycling community to get this done. Now that is badass, and it creates a clear blueprint for the groups in Santa Fe pushing for an expansion of the Pecos Wilderness into the Tesuque Creek Watershed and those that want to preserve mountain bike access to all the trails that would encompass, mainly the Winsor Trail network. The Santa Fe Fat TireSociety sprang to life in early 2011 for this specific purpose. 

The grass-roots coalition responsible for cobbling together the Columbine-Hondo legislation and moving it onto the Senator's desk include a broad based collection of area residents, sportsmen, conservationists, and a joint effort from the Taos Cycling Coalition, the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society, the IMBA and the Carson National Forest. All of these groups deserve substantial recognition and the full support of the northern New Mexico outdoors community.

Update (Dec.2014): The legislation passes and heads to the Pres for his signature

Related Posts:
 - End of Year Charitable Giving
 - Drink Beer - Support Local Trails
 - Wheeler Peak - Taos, NM

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