Río Grande del Norte grows with land sale - Albuquerque Journal

Río Grande del Norte grows with land sale

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

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The wide-open spaces of the Taos Plateau are important wildlife migration corridors in far northern New Mexico. The rugged landscape also supports hunting, camping and livestock grazing.

Now, an 850-acre land parcel in Taos County, purchased with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, is the latest addition to U.S. Bureau of Land Management ownership as part of the 250,000-acre Río Grande del Norte National Monument.

The land was sold for $470,000 by a Taos family “who wanted to see it conserved,” 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 appraisals and environmental assessments, and worked with New Mexico’s congressional delegation to secure the funding.

“It’s winter range elk habitat and habitat for just about every other species that are important economically for hunting and for wildlife viewing,” Petterson said.

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

Interior Department agencies, such as the BLM, submit a yearly priority project list for the funding.

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

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

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

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

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

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.

 


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