Members of Congress Came Together with the Southern New Mexico Community to Bring Attention to Public Lands Legislation in the 118th Congress
SILVER CITY, NM — This week, community members in Silver City, New Mexico were joined by their members of Congress, Senator Heinrich and Representative Vasquez, to celebrate the introduction of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Completion Act and the Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act to the 118th Congress. If passed, both pieces of legislation would help to protect and steward public lands in New Mexico and connect communities with more opportunities to access the outdoors.
“As a resident of New Mexico, I am extremely proud to have such great public lands champions like Senator Heinrich and Representative Vasquez protecting the future of our state,” says Teresa Martinez (she/her/ella), Executive Director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC). “These bills are common sense pieces of legislation and direct investment in the health and vitality of our state’s communities, people, and our natural places. More than just the stewardship of our natural landscapes, these pieces of legislation empower and invest in communities to connect with the greenspaces in their own backyard and support local rural economies that depend on these protected areas for their way of life.”
Silver City was the first town to become a designated Gateway Community of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in 2014 and has since continued to grow its connection with the CDT over the past decade. Last night’s event, hosted by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance at the Little Toad Brewery in downtown Silver City, was attended by over 100 people who turned out to hear more about how their members of Congress were advocating for public lands.
“The power that community members have when they come together for community-led conservation is embodied by those in Silver City and others who were present,” says Shandiin Nez (she/her/they/them), Southern New Mexico Policy Fellow at CDTC. “It’s amazing to hear people laughing and celebrating accomplishments in community with one another-things that have been years in the making, celebrating the big and the small moments.”
The CDT Completion Act will address the completion of gap areas on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. After over four decades of dedicated stewardship from agencies, communities, partners, and volunteers, approximately 160 miles of the 3,100-mile-long CDT remain incomplete in the trail states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Many of these gaps are sections of the trail where recreationists enjoying the trail are diverted onto roads and busy highways, which are not safe or enjoyable for trail travelers or motorists. In a 2022 survey of businesses in CDT communities, one of the top priorities of business owners was the completion and connectivity of the trail.
The Great Gila Wild and Scenic River Act would designate segments of the Gila and some of its tributaries, and certain other rivers in the Gila National Forest, as Wild and Scenic. If passed, the designation would prohibit involuntary condemnation of private property, while preserving private property rights, as well as water rights, existing irrigation and water delivery operations, grazing permits, and public land access. Designation as a Wild and Scenic River has the potential to bolster the local outdoor economy and gives agencies and community partners the ability to restore the health of rivers and forests.
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About the Continental Divide Trail
The CDT is one of the world’s premiere long-distance trails, stretching 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada along the Continental Divide. Designated by Congress in 1978, the CDT is the highest, most challenging, and most remote of the 11 National Scenic Trails. It provides recreational opportunities ranging from hiking to horseback riding to hunting for thousands of visitors each year. While 95% of the CDT is located on public land, approximately 150 miles are still in need of protection.
About the Continental Divide Trail Coalition
The CDTC was founded in 2012 by volunteers and recreationists hoping to provide a unified voice for the Trail. Working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Forest Service and other federal land management agencies, the CDTC is a non-profit partner supporting stewardship of the CDT. The mission of the CDTC is to complete, promote, and protect the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail as a world-class national resource. For more information, please visit continentaldividetrail.org.