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Roadless areas deserve Wilderness protection

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Throughout the state of New Mexico, From the Colorado state line in the north to the Mexican border in the south, there are 57 unique areas totaling nearly 1 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management as Wilderness Study Areas.

These lands were identified through an inventory process that concluded in 1980. They are roadless areas that were found to have wilderness qualities as defined in the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Wide open spaces, high mountains, deep canyons and abundant wildlife are found in these special places. They offer exceptional opportunities for recreation, solitude, wildlife viewing, scientific research and many other activities. They represent a treasured heritage to be passed to future generations.

Although not yet a formal part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, they nevertheless are mandated by law to be managed in such a manner as to not impair their wilderness qualities.

When the inventory process was completed, it was expected that Congress would act within 15 years to formally declare them as wilderness or to manage them for other uses. Unfortunately, all these years later, Congress has failed to act, leaving them in a sort of bureaucratic limbo.

While mandated to be protected, the reality is that they are being negatively impacted by unauthorized activities including unchecked off-road vehicle use, construction of new roads, timber cutting and destruction of archeological treasures.

Sadly, the BLM simply does not have the will or the resources to adequately protect these special places. Most are only monitored, not really managed, and only by a once-a-month site visit.

New Mexico is the birthplace of wilderness with the designation of the Gila Wilderness as the nation’s first such protected place. This coming October, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act will be nationally celebrated in Albuquerque with people coming from all across the country for this major event.

What could be more fitting than to have legislation introduced in Congress on the 50th anniversary to protect these special places as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System and to provide the resources needed to properly manage them?

Bold Visions Conservation is committed to making this happen, and we look forward to working with our congressional delegation on this vital legislation so important for future generations of New Mexicans.

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