A Monumental Celebration in Taos
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument: An Economic Boon for Taos
On March 25, 2013, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation establishing the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument just north of Taos. This past Saturday, a standing-room-only crowd of enthusiastic Taoseños gathered at Taos Mesa Brewing to celebrate alongside some of the political dignitaries who helped make the historic designation possible.
Speakers at the event commemorating the feat included outgoing U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, retired U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM. Local speakers included Taos Mayor Darren Cordova, Questa Mayor Esther Garcia and Lawrence Rael, President of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce. Representatives from the Taos Pueblo War Chief’s office were also present.
All talked about the economic impact the national monument designation will have on Taos County, which is predicted to bring approximately 300 jobs to the area. Heinrich joked about the difficulty of finding a room for four for the weekend, suggesting the economic benefits had already taken effect. He emphasized how the accomplishment was a textbook example of people, groups and communities working together to get things done. Following his introduction to the crowd, retired Senator Bingaman received a standing ovation for his part in the monumental effort (and for his longtime service to New Mexico in general.)
Salazar, who was raised in the San Luis Valley in Colorado, just north of the 240,000+ acres included in the Rio Grande del Norte Monument, expressed the significance of permanently protecting the area for future generations of locals and eco-tourists to enjoy — from hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts to sports outfitters and outdoor photographers who can benefit economically from an increase in visitors.
In a savvy business move, brewmasters at Taos Mesa Brewing, the venue for the March 30th event, created a commemorative pale ale, which they named after the monument. Aware of President Obama’s fondness for craft beer, the owners sent a sample of the namesake brew to the President just before the historic signing. Salazar said he was going to take a six-pack of the Rio Grande del Norte beer back to D.C. for the President. Taos Mesa Brewing could end up being among the first of Taos businesses to reap economic rewards from the monument designation. They’ve already received national press about their new brew.
Permanent Protection for Future Generations
As a National Monument, the Rio Grande del Norte landscape is now permanently protected from energy development, infrastructure and roads that might have destroyed or altered the ecological and cultural resources in the area. Now, the Bureau of Land Management will oversee and preserve the heritage and beauty of these lands so that they are safeguarded for all to enjoy.
I am fortunate to live 10 miles from the Rio Grande National Monument and have spent many weekends biking the rim or hiking along the river’s edge where you can rest and soak up the scenery on sandy beaches and ginormous black boulders polished smooth from the flowing waters. Whether you enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, river rafting, backcountry hunting, fishing or wildlife viewing, I hope you will come experience the natural beauty of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument for yourselves this summer.