Rio Grande Gorge, part of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Audubon New Mexico played an integral role in President Obama permanently protecting one of Audubon's Important Bird Areas in Northern New Mexico by designating this new National Monument. Photo: Dave Hensley

Conservation

New Mexico Birds, Land, Rivers and Communities in Jeopardy

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is at the heart of one of the oldest continually habituated landscapes on the continent.

New Mexico is recognized nationwide for its rich landscape and biodiversity, and Audubon has a long-standing commitment to protect this precious biodiversity. For decades, Audubon has been instrumental in advocating for the protection of our grasslands, forests and rivers.

For more many years, Audubon New Mexico and its collective 6500 state members along with Audubon local chapters have joined thousands of other New Mexicans to lend our voice to protection of our unique and outstanding public lands. Leveraging Audubon Important Bird Areas, newsletters, earned and social media, action alerts, outreach to key staff in the White House, Department of Interior, and Congress as well as heavy member turnout at public meetings, our strength and collective efforts contributed to President Obama’s designation of over half a million acres in New Mexico as a national monument to America, known as the Río Grande Del Norte. A flexible designation that balances protection of our most treasured places for hunting, fishing, birding, hiking, and rafting alongside of traditional uses like grazing. Now President Trump and his administration want to undo years of dedication and hard work to conserve the land we call home! A recent executive order signed by President Trump calls for “evaluating” our precious and sacred monuments for downsizing or elimination.

Now, the Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments are in jeopardy. These New Mexico national monuments provide crucial habitat and wildlife corridors for animal migration. Without these large tracts of intact landscapes, birds and other wildlife would be in serious danger. The Executive Order threatens not only these monuments and our native and cultural heritage, but it will also hurt surrounding communities and small businesses that have come to rely on access to this outdoor recreation haven. Please take action today by urging the Department of the Interior not to undo or limit America’s national monuments. The comment period runs from May 12th through July 10th. To submit your comments and for additional information and suggested talking points for your comments, please visit this page.

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument
The Río Grande del Norte is at the heart of one of the oldest continually habituated landscapes on the continent. This is an area that is not only stunning, it also has played a role in shaping the cultures for centuries and is an integral part of our state – and economy – today. The proposed wilderness areas within the national monument serve as one of the world’s great avian migratory routes. It is also home to important game species like pronghorn and elk.

Encompassing 242,500 acres, the Río Grande del Norte National Monument includes extinct volcanoes like Ute Mountain, the Río Grande Gorge a national wild and scenic river and designated Important Bird Area, and broad swaths of Pinyon-Juniper woodlands and savanna, and expansive plains of sagebrush.  Avian conservation species that depend on monument lands for breeding, overwintering or stopover habitat during migration include Bald Eagle, Pinyon Jay, Virginia’s Warbler and Sage Thrasher.

Meg Scherch Peterson, who writes about wildlife and water in the Río Grande watershed, and lives a quarter-mile from the Monument, where she birds, hikes, swims, and rafts shares with Audubon New Mexico one of her many awe-inspiring experiences. “The Río Grande del Norte is precious because within its boundaries raw nature unfolds in all its mystery. I watched a Golden Eagle give chase to a madly flapping raven. These two iconic species swept across one of the avalanche trails from last summer’s rains in the gorge. Seemingly, from out of nowhere, a Bald Eagle suddenly dove into the midst of the fray, split off, circled back, then resumed the epic battle. It seemed presumptuous for me to try and understand them.”

Peterson goes on to mention that in Río Grande del Norte National Monument, wildlife is abundant. It’s also accessible by car, kayak, raft, mountain bike, horse, llama, and foot. The riparian habitat along a six-mile river corridor at the southern end of the 242,555-acre monument hosts some 165 species of birds. Birders and other recreation-minded folks from across the country visit the Monument, providing a boon for the local economy.

Decades ago, the National Audubon Society declared the Río Grande Gorge— a 565-foot deep canyon that runs through the middle of the Monument—an Important Bird Area. It is considered prime habitat by the scientific community for golden and bald eagles, prairie and peregrine falcons, hawks, and owls. As part of the Central Migratory Flyway, the Monument also supports the migration of herons and shorebirds, sandhill cranes, hummingbirds, American avocets, mountain plovers, and a wide range of songbirds. 

If these lands and the grasslands, forests and rivers that they harbor were harmed, our community would be devastated. New Mexico would be severely impacted—economically, environmentally, spiritually.

We must once again lend the collective power of our voices to protect our Land of Enchantment and the rich grasslands, forests and rivers within their boundaries for the birds, people, communities, and all living creatures and wildlife, and we ask that you please support our monuments by submitting a comment today. The comment period runs from May 12th through July 10th. To submit your comments and for additional information and suggested talking points for your comments, please visit this page.

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