Río Grande del Norte grows with the sale of land


Bighorn sheep graze in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in October. An 850-acre plot of land in Taos County purchased with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the latest to be added to the monument under the ownership of the Bureau of Land Management. (Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The wide open spaces of the Taos Plateau are important wildlife migration corridors in the far north of New Mexico. The rugged landscape also favors hunting, camping, and cattle grazing.

Today, an 850-acre plot of land in Taos County, purchased with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, is the latest addition to the United States Bureau of Land Management’s property as part of the monument. National Río Grande del Norte of 250,000 acres.

The land was sold for $ 470,000 by a Taos family “who wanted to see it preserved,” said Jim Petterson, vice president of the Trust for Public Land’s Mountain West Region.

The organization helped negotiate the sale with the landowners and the BLM, conducted environmental assessments and assessments, and worked with the New Mexico congressional delegation to secure funding.

“It is the habitat of the wintering elk and the habitat of just about every other species that is economically important for hunting and viewing wildlife,” said Petterson.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses money from offshore oil and gas drilling for federal land acquisitions and local parks and trails.

Interior Ministry agencies, such as the BLM, submit a list of priority projects for funding each year.

“One of the reasons this work is so important is that these properties could end up with incompatible development in or around the heart of the national monument,” said Petterson. “It would completely change the visitor experience and disrupt the intact habitat.”

This sale marks the sixth negotiation to acquire private land from TPL within or adjacent to the monument’s boundaries.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation also helped use LCWF funds to add several private properties to the monument, including four plots totaling 1,200 acres earlier this year.

Pamela Mathis, field manager at BLM’s Taos office, said working with non-governmental organizations to acquire land in the “heart of the monument” is important for connectivity and recreation.

“It really helps the intention of the monument and the public lands, which are used for people and also for conservation,” Mathis said.

Theresa Davis is a member of the Report for America body covering Water and the Environment for the Albuquerque Journal.