Town of Red River gets land in Columbine-Hondo Wilderness bill

RED RIVER – With the recently passed Financial Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Town of Red River gained ownership of several parcels of land that have been pivotal to the community for decades.

The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act, which was attached to the NDAA, conveys land to Red River. According to Red River Mayor, Linda Calhoun, “They (the U.S. government) will quit claim the property to the town.”  The land that is to be transferred to Red River has been commonly used through existing permits by the town and includes the cemetery, Mallette Park, the sewage treatment plant and a small section of Pioneer Road.  Calhoun said, “about 40 acres is in the bill, plus or minus some after the surveys are done.”

The transfer of land is important to the town because it allows the town to manage the properties more efficiently. According to Calhoun, Red River will be a careful steward of the land as it already has been. Also, “The land has to be used in the existing manner. So no condos!”

In the past, any time the Town wanted to make any changes in the use of the land they had to inform the Forest Service and then go through any processes that the Forest Service determined were appropriate and necessary.  The Town and the Forest Service have had a good working relationship, so, other than delays, the processes have not been an undue burden.  With the conveyance, the management becomes more streamlined

When President Barack Obama signed the NDAA on Friday (Dec. 19) the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area became a Wilderness Area. The impact of the change is subtle, but important because it makes many of the use restrictions in the area more permanent.

According to a Dec. 12 press release from U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich’s office, the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act will “designate the Columbine-Hondo area in Taos County, New Mexico as wilderness. Located in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico, the Columbine-Hondo has been managed as a Wilderness Study Area since 1980. The Columbine-Hondo is one of the most treasured places in the state and a key attraction for the local tourism economy. The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776) would designate the Columbine-Hondo area in Taos County as wilderness. The bill would also expand the Wheeler Peak Wilderness by approximately 650 acres while modifying a boundary in order to create a loop trail accessible by mountain bikes along the Lost Lake trail from Taos Ski Valley to the East Fork trail to Red River.”

Wilderness areas were created by the Wilderness Act of 1964 to preserve undeveloped areas for future generations to enjoy the wilderness experience.  The Act stated “these (wilderness areas)shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness….”