Mimbres Peaks National Monument logo in full color with a white background

What a Mimbres Monument Would Mean for Hunting

Experienced New Mexico sportsmen say federal action to extend national monument designations to protect special landscapes preserves our state’s hunting and fishing heritage.

San Miguel County Commissioner Max Trujillo has hunted the rugged mountains on the west side of the Rio Grande in Taos County since before the area was protected as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in 2013.

Trujillo, senior field coordinator for Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO), said he supports proposed federal action to protect the Florida Mountains and other landmark peaks in Luna County as the Mimbres Peaks National Monument. The peaks are on federal lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and would continue under BLM management following monument designation.

“Being able to continue hunting on permanently protected areas, national monuments or otherwise, is really important to the people of New Mexico,” Trujillo said. “Because for centuries, we’ve been using this land responsibly, and we’ve contributed to the land’s well-being and these practices must continue.”

Trujillo said he’s enjoyed hunting on Cerro de la Olla, part of the vast area of BLM lands that became the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, before the national monument designation. He said he sees advantages to the increased federal protections for such special places.

“I know there are people who are against hunting, but hunting is just another means for people to put protein on their tables,” Trujillo said. “And for a lot of people in New Mexico, it’s important for their families’ well-being. It’s important for them to spend that quality time with friends and family and people in the outdoors, and be able to experience something like that. And whether it’s a national monument or some other protected area, I think that those opportunities is essential to the well-being of all New Mexicans.”

In addition to preserving New Mexico’s hunting traditions, Trujillo said the national monument designation offers valuable protections for the land itself.

“With permanent protection comes the opportunity to improve experiences for hunters,” Trujillo said. “There’s law enforcement and there’s better protection of the game. And even travel management is easier when you have a little bit of maintenance on some of those roads. It just makes it a better experience altogether.”

Nick Steit, owner of the Taos Fly Shop, is director of the Friends of Rio Grande del Norte, a group focused on conservation and community outreach at the national monument.

Streit’s business offers guided fishing trips on the Rio Grande within the national monument, and he says he’s seen a distinct increase in business since the monument designation.

Streit also has hunted in the area both before and after the monument designation. A few years ago, for example, he took a nice bull elk on Cerro Montoso, one of the mountains there.

“It’s hard to say exactly what the monument designation itself has done. But we do know that if we look at the overall number of visitors in the area and the visitations to our business, it’s definitely been on a pretty dramatic updward trend since monument designation,” Streit said. “So I’m sure part of that has to do with the monument designation, and working in a national monument designation, and working in a national monument with our traditional uses protected under that designation has enabled us to remain, protects our rights to continue to guide there, as well as, of course, to fish and hunt and everything else.”

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation’s Ben Neary grew up in New Mexico and is an avid hunter and fisherman. He graduated from the University of New Mexico. He worked at newspapers in the state for 20 years, covering state and local government agencies and conservation issues. Most recently, Neary covered state government and courts for The Associated Press in Wyoming. He was happy to give up the Wyoming winters and return to familiar hunting and fishing grounds in New Mexico. He lives in Albuquerque with his wife Susie and their son, Stanley.