New Mexico officials this week celebrated adding more than 54,000 acres to create its largest state-owned recreation area. The area, known as the L Bar project, was acquired by the Trust for Public Land and is one of more than 100 projects they support in the Mountain West area.
Grassy valleys teem with juniper and pinon trees that provide winter fodder for wildlife with higher elevations full of ponderosa pines. The landscape is dotted with dramatic cliffs and remnants of volcanoes.
Adding land to the Marquez Wildlife Area has more quadrupled its size — and is a boon to tribal leaders and conservationists.
Local tribes can now access traditional lands and sacred places in the area, located northeast of Mount Taylor, an extinct volcano significant in several tribal creation stories.
Theresa Pasqual of Acoma Pueblo was part of the team advocating for the purchase of the property from private landowners.
“When we restore people’s connection to the land, we restore their oral history; we restore their identity for future generations; we’re re-establishing their cultural connection to the landscape that hadn’t seen their footprints in generations,” Pasqual said while overlooking the area’s mesas, grasslands, and remnants of volcanoes.
It will also provide outdoor recreation opportunities for people who enjoy hunting or hiking. Herds of elk and deer migrate through the area, and it’s home to black bears and mountain lions.
One of the goals of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is to restore the pronghorn population there and open it to hunters in the fall of 2023.
On Wednesday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham celebrated the addition of the wildlife area to Laguna Pueblo.
“These projects… these investments in future generations, this protection of wildlife and habitat, this re-recognition of sovereignty – all of this will create the opportunity for more investment,” she said.
In the Mountain West region, the Trust for Public Land supports 96 projects. The most recent totals include 46 projects in Colorado, 11 in New Mexico, eight in Utah, five in Idaho and three in Wyoming.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana , KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations throughout the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the public broadcasting company.
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