Washington, D.C. – President Obama is expected to designate five national monuments on Monday including a pristine region known as Rio Grande del Norte near Taos, New Mexico and a thousand acres along the San Juan Islands in Washington State. The designations will permanently protect these landscapes from development. The President is also expected to designate a few historic sites including First State National Monument in Delaware, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.
“Environment America eagerly awaits President Obama permanently protecting these treasured wild areas in New Mexico and Washington,” said Mary Rafferty, conservation program coordinator for Environment America. “This is exciting news for the hikers who explore Ute Mountain, a free-standing former volcano in Rio Grand Del Norte, and the thousands who canoe along Cattle Point in San Juan Islands.”
Rio Grande Del Norte is home to thousands of plant and wildlife. The region is home to bald eagles and falcons; migratory birds, such as herons; and, elk and pronghorn antelope, the only surviving species of its family in the world. The San Juan Islands encompasses nesting grounds for bald eagles, shorelines where visitors can spot passing seals and orcas, and stands of old growth forest.
All designations have strong local support by the public. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, former Senator Bingaman and Congressmen Lujan, and the Mayors of Questa and Taos all expressed their support for Rio Grande Del Norte. Nearly 200 local businesses and 5,000 Washingtonians have come out in support of protecting the San Juan Islands, including Senator Cantwell, Senator Murray and Governor Inslee.
“El Rio Grande Del Norte is just another reason why New Mexico is known as the ‘Land of Enchantment’,” said Rafferty. “Thanks to President Obama, we’ll be able to enjoy these regions for generations to come.”
These regions will be designated as national monuments under the Antiquities Act. Signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Act has been used by nearly every president since to permanently protect federally owned land from development. Currently only about one third of our public lands are permanently protected as wilderness, parks, refuges or other protected areas.
Other areas in the country currently seeking monument protections are Stornetta Public Lands along the California Coast and Organ Mountains, a popular hiking destination outside Las Cruces.
“We look forward to continuing our work with President Obama to protect all the places that are important to our nation’s parks, forests, waterways, and wildlife,” said Rafferty.