November 17, 2006
Oscar Simpson, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, (505) 345-0117
Bill Schudlich, New Mexico Council of Trout Unlimited, (505) 470-4878
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ALBUQUERQUE—Two sportsmen’s groups thanked the state’s federal delegation Friday after a bill permanently setting aside the Valle Vidal from gas and oil exploration and drilling successfully moved through the U.S. Senate en route to the Oval Office where it awaits President Bush’s signature.
“We’re very grateful to our representatives and senators who listened intently to the will of New Mexico’s hunters and anglers and carried out those wishes to protect the Valle Vidal for generations to come,” said Oscar Simpson of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. Simpson, who has worked for years to protect the Valle Vidal from the encroaching industrial development associated with oil and gas drilling in New Mexico, called the decision “historic,” in that it proved sportsmen in the West are being heard when it comes to important conservation issues.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, moved through the U.S. House of Representatives last summer with support from Rep. Heather Wilson, R-New Mexico. Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, and was moved through the Senate with the help of Sen. Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico. The bill proved to be a notable bipartisan conservation effort.
“This is a huge day for anglers and hunters in New Mexico,” said Bill Schudlich, chairman of the New Mexico Council of Trout Unlimited. NMTU and the NMWF are both members of the Coalition for the Valle Vidal, which pulled all interested parties together on behalf of the Valle Vidal. “To be able to set aside an area with so much value to sportsmen in our state is absolutely priceless. To know that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the Valle Vidal, much like we enjoy it today is wonderful—the outcome couldn’t have been better.”
The Valle Vidal, a vast, mostly intact stretch of wild land near the state’s northern border with Colorado, is home to some of the state’s strongest populations of increasingly rare Rio Grande cutthroat trout, as well as New Mexico’s storied elk herd that supports a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. Keeping this area as it is today, Schudlich said, will say a lot about the quality of New Mexico’s sportsmen and the state’s current federal delegation generations from now.
“That’s quite a legacy to leave behind,” Schudlich said. “This is something everyone can point to years from now and be very proud of.”
Simpson, who has championed the protection of the Valle Vidal for much of his life, put it in perspective.
“This is a model for sportsmen when it comes to conservation,” he said. “We have protected one of the last, best places in the country thanks to collaboration and a lot of hard work. I couldn’t be happier.”