Senate approves Sabinoso protections

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By David Giuliani

The U.S. Senate last week passed legislation to designate more than 17,000 acres in southeastern San Miguel County as wilderness by a vote of 73-22.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Tom Udall when he served in the House, is included in a package of public land bills assembled by Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Both are New Mexico Democrats.

The proposed new wilderness area would contain lands currently included in the Sabinoso Wilderness Study Area. The land is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Udall, the BLM and local landowners worked together to develop this legislation to designate the area wilderness, which will protect the rugged and dramatic landscape of the area, according to a Udall press release.

The area includes scenic canyons and mesas, which are home to a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, mountain lions, and wild turkey. It is also rich in canyon vistas, including the 1,000-foot tall Canyon Largo, and impressive rock formations — all part of a vibrant Great Plains ecosystem, officials said.

“This legislation was made possible by the coalition of local communities, including landowners, hunters, ranchers, conservationists and state legislators who worked so hard to protect this land,” Udall said in a statement. “I want to thank them for their efforts and congratulate them on a job well done. I look forward to the bill moving quickly through the House and being signed into law.”

“Designating this special place a wilderness area was a collaborative effort between hunters, conservationists, ranchers and local leaders. I’m very pleased to have supported Senator Udall’s efforts to gain Senate passage of this bill,” Bingaman said in a press release.

The state House of Representatives, led by Rep. Thomas Garcia, D-Ocaté, and the San Miguel County Commission, both passed resolutions calling on the New Mexico congressional delegation to support the establishment of the Sabinoso Wilderness Area.

The wilderness area would be open for grazing, hunting and other recreational uses.

The legislation will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.