“To know the land deeply and intimately requires time and patience.”
These were the words spoken by Theresa Pasqual on June 29, 2022, at the Dancing Eagle event center. A program director for the Pueblo of Acoma and a CVNM Board Director, Theresa spoke to a gathering that included Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, Tribal leaders, and Trust for Public Land (TPL) representatives.
Earlier that month, the TPL, their partners, and the Department of Game and Fish acquired roughly 54,000 acres of private ranch land known as the L Bar Ranch, close to the slopes of Mt. Taylor, sacred to the Acoma and other Indigenous people. The acquisition nearly quadruples the size of the Marquez Wildlife Area and protects the acquired land in perpetuity.
“To walk Kaweshtima, as the Acoma people refer to Mt. Taylor, is to spend time learning, observing, and understanding this special place,” Theresa said of the land. The restoration of this precious land and others like it is, she said, “the beginning of our collective work.”
Conservation successes like the L Bar Ranch succeed only through collaboration, often finding their roots in the local communities with intimate knowledge of the land. But coalition work and compromise is not easy. Like stewarding the land, it takes time and patience.
The L Bar is an example of all these components coming together – agencies, tribes, officials, and nonprofits pooling their resources to, in the words of U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, create the “single greatest new addition to New Mexico’s protected public lands in a generation.”
When open to the public, L Bar will make accessible to Indigenous communities and the public remarkable lands that have been inaccessible for generations, providing recreational opportunities for hikers, birders, backpackers, and hunters while preserving the area’s cultural significance. With the acquisition of the property, the Marquez Wildlife Area became the largest state-owned recreation property in New Mexico.
Because of the acquired land’s size and elevation, it helps protect various habitats, allowing species to move through different environmental zones. This kind of migrational freedom helps mitigate some of the impacts of climate change, increasing both biodiversity and wildlife numbers.
Part of the area is considered sacred by 30 Native tribes. In 2009, over 400,000 acres on and around Mount Taylor were designated “traditional cultural property”. The acquired landscape adds to that indelible historic progress while helping to ensure the legacy and living history of New Mexico’s Indigenous people.
The acquisition of the L Bar ranch is a win for our lands, water, and wildlife, for Native peoples, and for our conservation legacy as New Mexicans. If you’re curious to know more about this success for public land and public access visit the Trust for Public Lands Website.