At noon today, hikers, hunters and horseback riders will finally be able to enter the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in northern New Mexico.
U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent out a Tweet last night announcing that his office had finalized the transfer of private land to the federal government. “Excited to announce tonight that for the first time ever #hunters can access the Sabinoso Wilderness Area.”
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) November 10, 2017
Congress designated the wilderness area in 2009, but people were not able to actually access the federally-administered lands because they were “landlocked” by private lands. At that time, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management contacted the Wilderness Land Trust and asked the nonprofit to buy a neighboring ranch and donate it to the federal government.
In August, Reid Haughey, the Wilderness Land Trust’s strategic advisor explained to NM Political Report that the trust bought the ranch in 2015 and went through the process to donate the land to BLM.
During the administration of President Barack Obama, then-Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell approved the donation and the agency amended the wilderness area’s management plan to account for the addition of the new lands.
The only thing left was for Zinke to transfer the deed, which Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich encouraged him to do when the secretary visited New Mexico and the wilderness area this summer.
Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, as well as sportsmen and conservation groups sent out statements in support of Zinke’s finalization of the land transfer on Thursday night.