U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Ben Ray Luján have reintroduced legislation in the Senate and House to protect the Río Grande del Norte.
The area includes more than 240,000 acres of BLM-managed lands in Taos and Rio Arriba counties.
Since 2009, the three lawmakers and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman have worked with the support of the local communities to pass legislation to designate the lands as a National Conservation Area.
"Some of Northern New Mexico's most historically and culturally rich treasures can be found in these areas," said Udall in a prepared statement. "The residents of Taos and Rio Arriba counties have joined us in an effort to protect their incredible landscapes and ensure the lands remain accessible for the benefit of locals and visitors. I was proud to take up this initiative with Jeff Bingaman and we will work to see that the preservation of the Río Grande del Norte is part of his lasting legacy."
"Living in New Mexico we have a special connection with the majestic land we are blessed to live on, and the Río Grande del Norte is one of the crowning jewels in our state," Luján said in a prepared statement. "Whether it is for recreation or farming, sustaining a way of life or finding inspiration, the Río Grande del Norte impacts all those who visit and all those who live off the sustenance it provides. Protecting this land should be a top priority, and Secretary Salazar’s visit to Taos in December of last year reinforced that there is overwhelming support by the local community to do so."
The House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held hearings on the legislation during last Congress.
In October, Bingaman and Udall asked President Obama to consider designating the area for national monument status. Luján and Heinrich also asked the administration to make the area a monument.
In December, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar hosted a public meeting in Taos to explore possible protection of the area. Residents who attended the meeting showed support for protecting the Río Grande Del Norte.