This week has seen a notable victory for the New Mexico sportsmen’s community, and – really – a notable victory for sportsmen across the country.
Rio Grande del Norte – spanning sixty-six contiguous miles of what is arguably some of New Mexico’s best-loved wild trout fisheries as well as habitat to elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, deep, raptors and waterfowl – has been designated a national monument.
President Obama signed the paperwork on Friday, ensuring the Rio Grande del Norte will be around for future generations to explore and recreate in.
The campaign to designate the area as a national monument was supported by a wide, eclectic variety of people, and support came from a plethora of unexpected directions. It’s a sweet victory for those who fought to ensure the land would be protected.
As you head north out of Santa Fe on US-285 there is a prominent overpass spanning the highway. Stamped deep in its massive upper concrete support beam, in big, bold letters that cover the entire length of the four lane interchange, are the words, “Tierra Sagrada,” — “Sacred Land.”
The notion of honoring our land and treating it as something sacred is truly an age old New Mexican tradition, sprung from tribal roots and then perpetuated by the explorers and Old World immigrants who settled the valley in the 16th century.
What all these cultures shared in common was connectivity to and utter dependence upon the land. On a fundamental level they understood and fully appreciated that without the land’s bounty, they simply could not survive. When you depend on something for your very survival, the relevance of its sanctity manifests itself utterly and absolutely.
Today, that honor carries on with the designation of the Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument.
For conservationists, for sportsmen and women – for anyone who loves these lands – these days don’t come often. And they don’t come easily. So when they do, we must celebrate that connection and that respect and value we have for the land, for the culture and the ties that bind us to it.
New Mexico’s sportsmen feel that tie in their bones.
Many of us are the direct descedents of those traditional land users and still view hunting and fishing as core cultural values. We do not take this day lightly. This designation is the result of two decades of work.
Well done, ladies and gentlemen.