Friday, March 22, 2013


Rio Grande del Norte, Trout Unlimited, Obama
The Rio Grande del Norte. Image by Josh Duplechian.

Sometimes, to get around the quagmire of politics, you have to be political. Such is the case these days with the U.S. Congress and the ideologues that can't seem to see the forest for the trees.

Thankfully, the American people still have a say, and in five locations across the country, they're getting their way. On Monday, President Obama will use his executive power to designate five new national monuments--the Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico; the San Juan Islands in Washington; the First State National Monument in Deleware; the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio; and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railway National Monument in Maryland.

In fall five cases, local citizens had to rise up and make the ask--Congress and its politics made protecting these special places and their intrinsic values through the legislative branch of government virtually impossible. There are more lawmakers in Congress more interested in adhering to their steadfast ideology than they are to the will of the people.

So the people have spoken. Congress can kiss their grits.

In northern New Mexico, for instance, where the local citizenry has been trying for years to protect the Rio Grande del Norte and its fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation resources, folks finally had to give up on the idea of going through Congress. Instead, they went right to the top, and the president, where they applied the needed pressure, proving that they had the will to make the designation happen. While New Mexicans had the support of their state's federal delegation, the ideologues from other states wouldn't allow a land-protection bill to work its way through Congress, even though the cost, when compared to the economic benefits each monument will bring to local communities, is nominal.

In fact, according to the Taos Chamber of Commerce, the area brings in more than $17 million annually to the local economy, and with the designation, that number is expected to double.

But don't let common sense get in way of ideology.

It's proof that, even with a Congress so focused on politics that it forgets about the people, the people can have their way. And good for President Obama for recognizing the importance of the will of the people.

As he said in Israel this week, "I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see."

I'm grateful to the people of northern New Mexico for applying the pressure in the right place, and I'm glad the president saw fit to answer that pressure by protecting that special place in perpetuity. Thanks to the will of the people--people like my buddy Garrett VeneKlasen of Trout Unlimited, who led the charge for sportsmen and women in the region--the place they love will remain intact for the next generation of New Mexicans.

They created the change they wanted to see.


  1. I was very happy to hear that Rio Grande del Norte was designated. It's certainly a jewel here in the West.

  2. Me, too Howard... there are scores of places across the West that deserve protection. Trouble is, politics continue to get in the way of the conservation ethic that most in the West, regardless of their political persuasion, share happily.

  3. I am one of thoe people that beleives in conservation but blurring of conservation with preservation has lead to miss trust. Do I trust the goverment, "no"! How will the final product look whne public goes to enjoy-will in only be a minor group to enjoy it or will everyone have opportunity to enjoy it and how? I will wait for the final product to come out and see how controlled the enjoyment for public will be. Ron