Native American Boarding Schools

The Estrella Mountains backdrop the grounds of the Gila Crossing Community School, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, on the Gila River Indian Reservation.  

(The Center Square) - A few conservation bills backed by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, are headed for the Senate floor for consideration.

Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is touting four different bills that advanced.

One is the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act. It would designate parts of the Gila River, its watershed, and other nearby rivers in the Gila National Forest as Wild and Scenic Rivers. 

"To ensure future generations can enjoy the Gila like we have - and like so many generations of New Mexicans have - we need to take action to protect it," Heinrich said. "Designating portions of the Gila River and its watershed as Wild and Scenic Rivers will protect one of the nation's most iconic and treasured rivers, as well as the immense recreational and agricultural economies that rely on it."

Another is the Buffalo Tract Protection Act. The bill would withdraw four parcels of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in southern Sandoval County from mineral development, including gravel mining; two of those parcels would be the Buffalo Tract and the Crest of Montezuma.

“The surrounding community is united in their opposition to gravel mining on these public lands that serve as critical wildlife connections between the Sandia Mountains to the south and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north,” Heinrich said in a press release. “I’ve expressed to my colleagues in the past that a vote to advance this legislation represents a vote for the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the Pueblo of San Felipe, the people of Placitas, Merced De Comunidad De San Antonio De Las Huertas land grant, and everyone in this community who have worked so hard to craft this legislation for more than a decade now. I’m confident this is the Congress the New Mexico delegation comes together and successfully moves this legislation across the finish line.”

Additionally, the committee approved a bill to establish Cerro de la Olla Wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico.

“For generations, people of the Taos area have hunted, gathered herbs and collected firewood on the flanks of Cerro de la Olla,” a release from Heinrich’s office said. “This proposed wilderness area would preserve traditional uses and provide sanctuary to a wide range of wildlife species while maintaining current access routes.”

Plus, language from Heinrich’s bipartisan Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act was included in the bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Act that passed out of the committee. 

“The SOAR Act would improve the permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations and community groups to access public lands,” a release from Heinrich’s office said.