Senator Martin Heinrich was able to get out of his Washington office and onto the land recently for a 2-day tour of the Ft. Union Ranch, near Watrous, NM, to learn more about the importance of conservation in this shortgrass prairie region along the Sangre de Cristo Front Range of northeast New Mexico.
New Mexico Land Conservancy’s Executive Director, Scott Wilber, was invited to participate in this event which included a tour of the Turkey Mountains and a pronghorn antelope hunt on the 100,000+ acre property. The visit concluded with a BBQ at the ranch attended by 20-30 members of New Mexico’s conservation and ranching community, as well as Garrett Veneklasen of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation who is a candidate for New Mexico State Land Commissioner.
Ft. Union Ranch is a true example of a heritage ranch, owned by one extended family for several generations, who have made a strong commitment to conservation. In the past decade, the family has donated three large-parcel conservation easements over 7,200 acres of the ranch to New Mexico Land Conservancy along lower Wolf Creek and Dog Creek, two tributaries of the Rio Mora, and is currently considering a new easement which aims to protect and restore the riparian corridor along the upper portion of Wolf Creek.
The vast acres of privately owned grasslands in northeastern New Mexico – including the seasonal or “playa” lakes that occur in this region—play a critical role in the overall health of the state’s watersheds and provide essential habitat for grassland birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and other wildlife. The ranch owners wanted to introduce Ft. Union Ranch to Sen. Heinrich and provide him with a personal experience on the land in this part of the state.
A member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Heinrich is a strong proponent of both public land management and protection, and private land conservation.
Last week, he and Senator Tom Udall, top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, announced that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is providing more than $1.1 million in grants to the state of New Mexico for outdoor recreation and conservation projects through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The funds are awarded through a federal matching program that leverages state and local funds by matching the investment with federal funds in New Mexico. [read more]