Preserving New Mexico Traditions in the Pecos Wilderness
Incorporating the adjacent roadless areas into the existing Pecos Wilderness and designating some places as special management areas would continue to protect traditional users’ rights and the customary uses of the lands and waters.
Current Grazing Will Continue in Wilderness
Livestock grazing currently occurs in the Pecos Wilderness. Grazing that occurs today in the proposed additions to the Pecos Wilderness will continue if the area is designated as wilderness.
Congressional direction on grazing in wilderness areas is very well established. The Wilderness Act of 1964 permits grazing to continue in wilderness and there are established guidelines for managing grazing in wilderness. Today, most wilderness legislation includes language directing that grazing management should follow the Congressional guidelines that reinforce section 4(d)(4)(2) of the Wilderness Act, which states that “the grazing of livestock, where established prior to the effective date of this Act, shall be permitted to continue subject to such reasonable regulations as are deemed necessary by the Secretary of Agriculture.” ¹
In the committee report accompanying 1980 legislation designating wilderness in several western states (PL 96-560), the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee developed comprehensive guidance on grazing in National Forest Wilderness.²
In short, this guidance emphasizes that grazing should not be curtailed simply because an area is designated wilderness; facilities may be maintained; new improvements and facilities should be focused on resource protection; and motorized equipment should be used sparingly, and mostly in emergency situations or where permitted prior to designation.
Hunting and Fishing Traditions Thrive
Hunting and fishing in places like the Pecos are time-tested and important traditions in New Mexico. For centuries, sportsmen have been a leading part of the movement to conserve wildlife and wildlands. This tradition would continue in the incorporated roadless areas surrounding the existing Pecos Wilderness.
Hunting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, camping, canoeing and other non-mechanized outdoor recreation are permitted in wilderness areas. The Pecos Wilderness and surrounding lands are critical habitat for elk, deer, bear, turkey, and one of America’s most robust herds of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. Its waters are home to the rainbow and brown trout, as well as New Mexico’s state fish – the Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
Protecting Water Quality and Customs
Acequias (traditional irrigation canals) and acequia associations are a cultural heritage in New Mexico that value uncontaminated and freely flowing water systems for irrigation and growing healthy crops. Several acequia associations in Northern New Mexico rely on clean water from the rivers and streams that originate in the existing Pecos Wilderness and its adjacent roadless areas.
There are no acequias, headgates or other infrastructure located within the existing or proposed wilderness areas. The roadless areas that are proposed for special management area designation would be protected from development while honoring the existing traditional uses that currently occur. Thus, special management area designations will not restrict access or limit maintenance or improvements to the irrigation infrastructure.
Many communities in New Mexico were granted land that included mountains, pastures, and water, along with communal use rights, including but not limited to hunting (caza), pasture (pastos), and watering (acequias and abrevederos). The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed the property rights associated with these land grants, and generations of land grant heirs have survived off the land with these resources. Wilderness protects hunting, watersheds, pasture, and other traditional values and resources for present and future generations.
Fact Sheet: Traditional Use and the Pecos (11-5-2015)