A standing-room-only audience turned out in Taos Saturday (Dec. 15) to show overwhelming support for protecting a huge swath of public lands know as the Rio Grande del Norte.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar took comments from residents regarding a proposal to provide added federal protection to an area that straddles northern Taos and Rio Arriba counties.
Salazar was joined at the meeting by Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M. Also present were Taos Pueblo Gov. Laureano Romero and Lt. Gov. Gilbert Suazo.
During the two-hour meeting at the Kachina Lodge, dozens of local residents spoke about the environmental and cultural importance of the area. All those who gave comments were in favor of added protection.
Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation have introduced legislation that would create a 236,000-acre conservation area along both sides of the Rio Grande Gorge. However, the legislation has made little progress getting through Congress.
Salazar told The Taos News after the meeting that he would be working on determining how best to get some sort of protection in place, be that through legislation or through a presidential proclamation.
"I think there is huge support for a designation that will protect this place," Salazar said.
For more on this story, see the Dec. 20 edition of The Taos News.