National Wildlife Federation News:
SANTA FE — The Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously for a resolution calling for permanent protection of the Caja del Rio plateau to safeguard wildlife corridors, ancient petroglyphs, and important lands for Indigenous Pueblo and Spanish land grant communities.
The Caja del Rio encompasses approximately 107,000 acres of land west of Santa Fe that is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
Community and spiritual leaders, including New Mexico conservation organizations and Tribal community-based organizations, offered praise for the resolution and decisive action by the Board of Commissioners.
“If you listen to the Caja, it tells the rich and powerful story of the American Southwest and the spiritually complex story of the interconnectedness of the Land of Enchantment. It’s a sacred place that reminds us of our common humanity and the important role we have as responsible stewards of this wonderful creation. Sincere thank you to the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners for its support,” said Rev. Andrew Black, public lands field director at National Wildlife Federation, minister at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, and founder of EarthKeepers 360.
“The Caja del Rio is an amazing nexus of culture, history, and wildlife. Ancestors of Spanish settlers 13 generations ago continue to practice traditional lifeways on the land, which was once part of El Camino de Tierra Adentro, the trade route that connected Central to North America. I’m grateful to the Santa Fe County Commissioners for taking initiative to recognize and formally commit to its protection,” said Max Trujillo, New Mexico senior field coordinator, Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO).
“This is a good day for sportswomen and sportsmen. The pristine land, water, and wildlife in and around the Caja del Rio is the best of New Mexico. With the strong support of community members, including the elected officials of Santa Fe County, the Caja plateau will soon enjoy greater protections, which means less illegal poaching and more opportunities for responsible enjoyment by hunters and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Jesse Deubel, executive director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
“The Caja lies within Pueblo ancestral territories,” said Julia Bernal, executive director, Pueblo Action Alliance. “Pueblo communities have been stewarding this land since time immemorial and will continue stewarding our landscapes for our future generations. Indigenous communities look for opportunities that allow Tribes to have more management roles through co-stewardship of this sacred land and we thank elected officials of Santa Fe County for their support as well as our Pueblo leadership who continue to advocate for cultural landscape protection and Land Back.”
“Public lands like the Caja del Rio are pivotal to our communities, as they provide an opportunity to reconnect with the outdoors,” said Ángel Peña, executive director, Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project. “The Caja is particularly important because it offers us not only the chance to learn about our surrounding environment, but also about the historical roots of our state. By protecting this space, we can create more opportunities for people, particularly from marginalized communities, to get outside and enjoy these learning experiences.”
“This singular landscape is the epicenter of Pueblo and Hispano cultures and is still central to the traditional land uses and spirituality of both communities that are the very foundation of New Mexico’s identity,” said Garrett Vene Klasen, Northern New Mexico conservation director, New Mexico Wild. “Our organization is grateful for the Commission’s timely response to protecting the Caja and we look forward to continuing to work with the larger New Mexico community to ensure the Caja is safeguarded for our future.”
“Protecting the very best natural parts of our state is good for businesses and for the long-term economic stability of all of New Mexico,” said Alexandra Merlino, executive director of Partnership for Responsible Business. “The full potential of the outdoor recreation industry is yet to be known, but we know for sure that the Caja del Rio is one of the keys to fully unlocking the potential of an industry that is already responsible for $1.9 billion in value to our state GDP.”
“Caja del Rio is a sacred ceremonial power point area for Pecos Eagle Clan and now for Pueblo of Jemez,” said Joseph ‘Brophy’ Toledo, cultural advisor and spiritual leader, Jemez Pueblo. “The connection to Caja is so special that the memory has a strong bond to the holistic process of ceremony, the fulfillment of area has that significant attraction. The four legged, winged, finned micro invertebrates and pollinators create that beauty for emergence power point.”
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