Río Grande del Norte National Monument

Río Grande del Norte National Monument

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“Our Hispano heritage runs deep in northern New Mexico. We are connected to our land and water like we are connected to our families and traditions. We depend on the land – whether it is fishing, hunting or enjoying the peace and quiet of nature. Protecting Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument will protect our way of life for future generations,” Ralph Arellanes, League of United Latin American Citizens

Located 28 miles north of Taos, New Mexico, people have always been drawn to Río Grande del Norte due to having some of the most spectacular lands and public hunting & fishing habitat in all of New Mexico. Just above the Colorado border, the Rio Grande cuts into the Servilleta lava flows that make up the Taos Plateau. Further south, at the New Mexico state line, the gorge is 150 feet across; the river 200 feet below. The gorge expands as it continues south, west of Questa, reaching over a half mile wide with the Rio Grande appearing as a glinting green ribbon 800 feet below. by the flowing water through the scenic Rio Grande Gorge and incredible wildlife and hunting opportunities.

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument’s extraordinary array of scientific and historic resources offer opportunities to develop our understanding of the forces that shaped northern New Mexico, including the diverse ecological systems and human cultures that remain present today.

The Río Grande gorge lies within the traditional area of the nearby Taos and Picuris Pueblos, as well as the Jicarilla Apache and Ute Tribes. With thousands of archaeological sites associated with a diverse range of cultural traditions that span at least 11,000 years of human occupation. Early prehistoric sites attest to the importance of this area for hunting and as a sacred site.

Recent artifacts and images mark the passage of Colonial Spanish explorers, Mexican Land Grant families and Early Anglo-American settlers. Ongoing explorations and inquiries of this unique cultural landscape have resulted in continuous discoveries that further illuminate northern New Mexico’s human history.

For current day visitors, the national monument offers nationally recognized opportunities for whitewater rafting, climbing, bird watching or relaxing. The area is prized for its destination-quality hunting and its fishing opportunities for a variety of trout species in the scenic gorge. The absence of designated trails provides solitude in the Ute Mountain area, even on busy weekends.

The Río Grande provides more than stunning cliffs and great recreation: It’s also an important stop along the Rio Grande Migratory Flyway. The dry plains along the Río Grande are home to eagles, hawks, bears, cougars, elk, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. In addition to the rich wildlife of the area, the plant life ranges from piñon, white pine, and Douglas fir covering Ute’s slopes to the blue grama and western wheatgrass of the plains.

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument was designated on March 25, 2013. In the first year following the designation, there was a 40% increase in visitation and economic data showed the Town of Taos Lodgers’ Tax Revenue increased by 21 percent in the second half of 2013 compared to the same period of 2012, amounting to an increase of nearly $100,000.

Public Input

The Rio Grande del Norte has benefited from an extensive and transparent community process which engaged local, state and national interests. Elected officials at the local, state and national levels, including the Taos County Commission, Town of Taos, City of Santa Fe and the New Mexico congressional delegation all worked in support of a National Conservation Area, and when legislation failed to advance in Congress, the community embraced pursuing support for both a national conservation area or a national monument.

In 2012, an economic study evaluating the economic impact of a national monument designation showed that a designation could lead to an increase of approximately $15 million in regional economic activity. This led to even more support from the business community as seen by the support from the Mora Valley and Taos Green Chambers of Commerce, the Taos Business Alliance, the Taos Tourism Council and more than 100 local business owners for permanent protection of the area.

New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and other sportsmen organizations, the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens and area ranchers all expressed support for the designation during a public meeting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in December 2012.

In January 2013, the Taos Pueblo passed a resolution of support in favor of either a national conservation area or a national monument.