Within the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is an extremely wild area that all New Mexicans have a stake in preserving.
This area, the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area, sustains surrounding communities with clean drinking water, recreation and tourism jobs.
Yet, it is still in need of permanent protection. The Rio Grande Chapter, through our work with the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Coalition has been working hard for the permanent protection of this wild area and we are making tremendous progress.
This week, www.columbinehondo.org went live. This site is a clearinghouse for information about this important area as well as the campaign to see it permanently protected. Please take a look around and be sure to sign the petition and get on the mailing list so you can get updates directly from the campaign.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, please contact New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation and urge them introduce legislation that would designate Columbine Hondo as a wilderness area. You can do that from right here.
The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area (CHWSA) located in Taos County, NM was designated as part of the 1980 New Mexico Wilderness Act. Since that time, it has been managed as wilderness and its wild character, and appropriateness for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System has grown dramatically. The entire area, which was legally designated as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA), should be included in a new wilderness designation.
The CHWSA is a major piece of the natural resource tourism economy that is so important to Taos County. The area is already widely used for a broad array of wilderness recreation including hiking, camping, hunting, fishing and equestrian use. So much of Taos County’s economy is based on tourism, with the draw being the beauty of its mountains and the opportunity to explore them. Designating the CHWSA as wilderness would permanently protect these values while giving the area increased name recognition.
The CHWSA is also incredibly important ecologically. The area is home to sensitive species such as big horn sheep, which needs relatively undisturbed habitat to exist. Columbine-Hondo is home to many blue-ribbon trout streams that provide critical habitat for species such as westslope, greenback, and Colorado River cutthroat. wilderness designation would prevent logging and road building that fill streams with silt and destroy fish habitat. Numerous other species depend on this area for habitat, as well as for the connectivity it provides between other protected areas like Wheeler Peak and the Latirs. Perhaps the most important ecological value protecting the CHWSA can provide is a source of clean water. The area contains important headwaters of the Rio Grande and contributes to the protection of clean water for much of the population of New Mexico for drinking and for agriculture.