New Mexico

Conservation: Wilderness in New Mexico

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Conservation: Wilderness in New Mexico
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Mason Cummings, TWS

Wilderness needs protection from development in New Mexico

Only 2 percent of New Mexico is protected as federally designated wilderness. This is the smallest amount in any western state and an indication of how much work we have left to make sure habitat and outdoor recreation spots are preserved for future generations.

A wilderness designation is the strongest level of land protection and an effective defense against development and destructive practices like reckless off-road vehicle use.

We have identified thousands of acres of land and water in New Mexico that deserve wilderness protection, from the rugged landscapes of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in the south to the wide open vistas of Rio Grande del Norte in the north. Working hand in hand with local communities, we can ensure the wildest lands in these areas receive the best protections possible.

Why these places matter

These lands include irreplaceable archaeological sites in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, important wildlife habitat at Río Grande del Norte National Monument and key cutthroat trout waters in the Carson and Santa Fe national forests.

Wildlife habitat
The Río Grande del Norte contains habitat for wildlife including elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and golden eagles.
150 miles of streams
Streams that feed community water supplies originate in the Pecos Wilderness and adjacent unprotected lands.
Only 2%
The amount of New Mexico protected as wilderness, the lowest proportion of any western state.

The threat

Though New Mexico boasts some of nation’s most majestic wildlands, it has less protected wilderness than any other western state.

Ironically, New Mexico is home to the Gila Wilderness, the world’s first designated wilderness, which was created in 1924 at the urging of Aldo Leopold, a famed conservationist and one of the founders of The Wilderness Society.

Wilderness areas—collectively known as the National Wilderness Preservation System--contain the cream of the crop of America’s public lands. These areas are practically untouched by encroaching civilization and protected as-is for the enjoyment of future generations.

We are working to pass legislation that protects more wilderness in New Mexico. Among our top priorities for protection are lands in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, encompassing volcanic cinder cones and archaeological sites thought to trace some of the earliest known examples of agriculture; the Río Grande del Norte, containing wildflower-covered plains and habitat for bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope; and the Pecos area in Carson and Santa Fe national forests, part of a watershed essential to both Rio Grande cutthroat trout and nearby communities.

What we're doing

  1. Protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

    We’re working to protect eight new wilderness areas within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to preserve unique volcanic landscape, important bird nesting habitat and more.

  2. Preserving wilderness in the Río Grande del Norte

    We want to preserve the Río Grande del Norte area’s rich habitat and outdoor recreation resources by passing wilderness legislation. Proposals on the table would protect Cerro del Yuta, the highest point on Bureau of Land Management land in the state, as well as the Río San Antonio.

  3. Keeping roadless land intact in the Pecos

    Thousands of acres of roadless land adjacent to Pecos Wilderness is in need of greater protection. In addition to working to have them designated as wilderness, we are trying to create special management areas that would allow existing motorized access by local communities to continue.

What you can do
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