Letter: Give the public access to public land

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The Sabinoso Wilderness lies in the plains east of Las Vegas, NM. Unique to the region, the area features sinuous canyons lined with sandstone cliffs.

The canyon bottoms hold lush riparian habitat for game species including elk, mule deer, Barbary sheep, mountain lion, wild turkey, and migratory waterfowl. Congress designated the area Wilderness in 2009 in recognition of its pristine backcountry and in response to local community support for its preservation as a place where sportsmen and outdoor recreationalists can interact with the beautiful and wild landscapes that we, as New Mexicans, value deeply. The Sabinoso has changed little in the last several centuries, and its lush canyons are full of game. But hunters, including veterans who fought to protect these lands, cannot access the Sabinoso today because currently it is entirely cut off from public roads by private land.

This could change. The Department of the Interior is currently deciding whether to allow a private landowner to open up the Sabinoso. Recently, a local landowner generously chose to sell his ranch to create access to the wilderness. The land is now held in trust by a nonprofit, and all that is required to permanently integrate it into the Sabinoso is Secretary Zinke's signature.

Congress directed the DOI to manage the Sabinoso for the "use and enjoyment of the American people." But the American people can neither use nor enjoy it today. Sportsmen are already scouting this year's hunts; unless the DOI moves quickly, we will once again be shut out of some of the richest and most beautiful public hunting grounds in our region.

Let your voice be heard by contacting Secretary of the Interior Zinke at the following link: nmwildlife.org/news/tell-secretary-zinke-new-mexico-sportsmen-women-want-sabinoso-access/.

– Garrett VeneKlasen, Executive director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation

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