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Sabinoso WildernessWelcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

This week, we highlight the 16,030 acre Sabinoso Wilderness.  Designated in 2009, the Sabinoso Wilderness is in a remote area in the northeastern portion of New Mexico.  The Wilderness includes a series of high, narrow mesas surrounded by cliff-lined canyons.  The rugged country primarily supports piñon pine and juniper woodlands, with occasional clusters of ponderosa pine.  Located on the bluffs of one side of the Canadian River, this canyon area is unique within the mostly flat and wide-open New Mexico portion of the Great Plains in which it is located.
Historically, this part of New Mexico was widely homesteaded for farming and ranching under the various Homestead Acts.  Homesteaders had to live on the land, build a home, make improvements, and farm for five years before they were awarded a tract of land.  Later, the Stock-raising Homestead Act awarded larger tracts and required range developments, but no farming.  Though no longer in practice, the Homestead Acts turned over vast amounts of the public land to private citizens and are recognized as a progressive approach in promoting settlement.

The land that is now the Sabinoso Wilderness, however, was too rugged to be practical for settlement through homesteading, and consequently it remained with the Federal government.  As a result, the Sabinoso Wilderness is a rare tract of public land in a part of the state that is primarily private land.  The private land separates it from public roads and highways, making it inaccessible to the public.
Some means are available to the Federal government to acquire public access to this area.  The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), created in 1965, is one option.  A portion of the revenues generated from offshore oil and gas leasing provides funding to purchase lands of public value.  The BLM remains prepared to seek LWCF funding should a landowner express interest in selling land or easements providing access.  The BLM would only pursue this with a willing landowner, and only for the appraised fair market value of the property.
Until legal access is secured, the BLM stresses the importance of respecting the rights of the adjacent private landowners by not trespassing.  This includes those who wish to hunt.  A hunting tag is available through the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish for the unit, which includes Sabinoso Wilderness.  But unless you have permission to cross an adjacent landowner’s property, you should avoid purchasing a hunting tag for this unit.
For more information, please visit the Sabinoso Wilderness website

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Last updated: 04-23-2014